Case Study: Six Best Practices for a Successful Internship Program

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By Christine Olsen, MBA and Career Coach, JVS Career Services

Why create an internship program?
Internships provide a learning experience for the student while helping your company build a pipeline of future talent. This Next Gen talent is seeking meaningful work and a positive experience, which can become a branding opportunity for you, the employer. When a student has a great value add experience as an intern, they will share it with others.

Great! But, how do you provide a program worthy of such positive PR?
There needs to be a structure mapped out before, a willingness to flex during, and ongoing honest feedback. Below are Six Best Practices for a Successful Internship Program.

Be prepared to have an intern. Having an intern will typically necessitate time, money, office space, equipment, and meaningful work. You may have tasks and projects to be done, but the intern is seeking to apply what they have learned in college and learn new skills and information. They will not be their most productive and creative self if the role is too task oriented, has them seated at a computer for hours on end, or lacks challenges.

Designate an intern coordinator/supervisor. The intern needs someone organized, capable, and with time to guide and advise them. The supervisor may find themselves being a role model and somewhat of a mentor. This requires someone who will take the time to make sure the intern is learning and doing well within the organization.

Write a description of the role beforehand. The original description should provide details such as preferred qualifications, hours and days of the week, and longevity of the internship itself, in addition to an overview of the role, including responsibilities of tasks, possible projects to be assigned, and time frame to be completed. However, there needs to be an understanding that there will be some flexibility needed as you align the job to the interns’ talents and areas they wish to strengthen.

Post the opportunity early to allow time for candidate review and hire. Remember, interns are students, and students have very busy schedules during the school year. Be it on your company website, or as outreach to JVS Career Services, posting early is a must to allow time to review resumes and applications and interview prospective candidates. Starting as early as six months out from internship start date and interviewing virtually have proven to be helpful in getting things done.

Familiarize the intern with the organization and expectations. Introduce your intern to the company as you would onboard any employee. This is your opportunity to share the organization mission, values, goals, policies, rules and procedures, facilities, and all colleagues who may be a resource to the intern. Review the dress code, use of cell phones, timeliness of daily arrival and departure with seriousness. Arrange for the intern to be trained in software or equipment they will be using and to do informational interviews with other departments. Also, include the intern in staff meetings as appropriate.

Seek and provide feedback as ongoing communication. Ongoing communication to answer questions and provide feedback is a must. A formal evaluation of the program by the intern, and of the intern by the supervisor, at the mid and/or end of the internship period will prove to be enlightening. Get the informal scoop by taking your intern to lunch on their last day if you can. The intern’s experience within your program is a great source of assessment. It will help you to adjust as necessary for the next lucky intern!

Be a willing learner when interact with your intern. Tech-savvy as you may think you are, these young adults have an instinctive intuitiveness with technology that they are happy to share. If your internship program is a success, your intern will feel grateful and appreciative for the opportunity.

Lastly, do not forget to write a letter of recommendation for the intern, if appropriate. This letter can speak to the work ethic, applied skills, and personal attributes you witnessed during their internship tenure. It will be added to their professional portfolio and be of great value going forward in their studies and job pursuit. They will be indebted to your caring and concern for their future success and tell others about their positive internship experience with your organization.

To learn more about internships, contact Christine Olsen by phone at (513) 745-2913, or email


Christine Olsen, MBA, is a Career Coach with JVS Career Services who is passionate about helping people and organizations to achieve their true potential. She has done this throughout her 25 year career in Business and Education in the areas of Finance, Leadership, Training and Development, Recruitment and Career Consulting.

Prior to joining JVS Career Services, Christine served as Career Services Director in higher education managing advisors and coaching students and alumni through their career preparation and transition.  She facilitated writing marketable resumes, teaching job search strategies, coaching on interviewing, networking strategies, personal branding, business etiquette, and employer hiring trends and culture fit, so that clients would enjoy a significant increase in job offers.

Christine received her Bachelor of Science in Business Administration and Business Education from SUNY Buffalo, NY and her Masters of Business Administration in Finance from Hofstra University, NY.  A native New Yorker, she has embraced Cincinnati as home for the past 24 years as proven by her commitment to quality education for all serving 10 years in Ohio PTA officer roles, as Event Planner for Educator Job Fairs, and as a 12 year elected Board of Education member.

Christine’s goal at JVS is to contribute to positive collaboration with all stakeholders to build trusting relationships that motivate and empower clients to successfully achieve their ideal careers.