Case Study: Six Best Practices for a Successful Internship Program

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 colsen@jvscareers.org.

 

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.

Job Candidate Profile: Meet Mindy

After spending ten years as a full-time volunteer and fundraiser, Mindy wanted to get back into the “working world.” Not knowing how to get started, Mindy followed the advice of several of her friends and reached out to JVS Career Services. She was quickly connected to Dedra, a career coach, and began her job search.

Like many people, Mindy came to JVS Career Services lacking confidence in her skillset and downplaying her experience, particularly as a volunteer. However, after reviewing every project and agency she has volunteered for, she soon realized how much value she could add to an organization. In addition, Mindy had a very successful sales career prior to her fundraising and volunteer days. She learned she had developed valuable skills in her personal life as well. While helping close family members through the challenges of aging, Mindy discovered she has a passion for working with older adults. Not only that—she learned how to navigate her way through moving, healthcare, financials, and family dynamics.

By articulating her past experiences and interests, Mindy came to the conclusion that she wanted a role that merged the two—sales and the older adult community. Then she had to figure out how to turn that vision into a reality. Working with Dedra at JVS Career Services, she was able to craft a stellar resume, highlighting her unique skills. From there, it was networking, networking, networking! Dedra created a list of local companies Mindy could reach out to in order to grow her network within her industry of interest. Mindy was able to secure meetings and phone calls with several companies, and she prepared herself to confidently speak about the value she could bring to those organizations.

After a few weeks, Mindy contacted Dedra with an exciting report. She had several positive conversations and met with one company that she fell in love with—Queen City Transitions.  She met with the owner, Betsy Goldfarb, who, despite not having an open position, was willing to share her expertise. To Mindy’s surprise, Betsy contacted her shortly after their meeting letting her know how apparent it was that Mindy would be a huge asset to the company. She invited Mindy to come back for an interview, and from there, they created a new role for Mindy!

Mindy was able to rely on Dedra to walk her through the onboarding process and answer any questions that she had, from writing thank you notes to beginning her new position. Mindy is now a successful Sales Manager with Queen City Transitions and loves going to work every day.

When Betsy was asked about adding Mindy to her team, she said, “Her innate passion for what we do was noticeable from the beginning, and when the right person is introduced to the right business and put in the right role, it can lead to great results. Mindy has been a vital part of achieving those great results.”

JVS Career Services provided Mindy the confidence, guidance, and expertise that she was looking for during her career transition, and at the same time, helped a local small business add a valuable member to their team.

Job Candidate Profile: Jonathan

In 2016, Jonathan started a new job as a strategic analyst. He brought ten years of experience to the role, and in that position, he developed performance reports, provided support and analysis for procurement services, and designed payment databases.

In January of 2018, he was laid off. He was worried about what the job search process would be like for him—for good reason. It had taken him 14 months of searching and a relocation to Cincinnati to find what, until that day, had been his current position. He was dreading another long search, in a city he’d only spent a year in, and didn’t want to have to move again.

This time, Jonathan called JVS Career Services. One month later, he started a new job—a job in Cincinnati, twenty minutes from his house, working for Fifth Third Bank and doing the same sort of strategic analysis he’d been doing for years.

Dedra, his JVS Career Services Career Coach, provided Jonathan with comprehensive advice on every part of his job hunt process—everything from interview preparedness to networking advice, to tips on creating a more professional email account just for his job search. When the time came to prepare for Jonathan’s initial phone screening, though, Dedra could do more than that. She had a contact at Fifth Third who was able to pass on crucial information that helped Jonathan prepare for that phone screening and helped him secure the in-person interview.

After Jonathan aced his phone screening and began to prepare for an in-person interview, Dedra was able to help him think more critically about how he was presenting himself—not only in the interview itself, but even the process of navigating the building, and getting from the car to the interview. She taught him that the interview starts from the moment you enter the parking lot, so always put your best face forward.

Jonathan did put his best face forward, and he had a very successful interview. With help from Dedra on how to handle interview follow-ups and get his documentation in order, Jonathan was prepared once he received the job offer. But JVS Career Services still had more to give. Dedra was able to provide valuable coaching to Jonathan as he negotiated a salary he was happy with.

Jonathan’s success story is one of many. Looking for a job is an occupation all of its own, but it’s a job you don’t have to do alone. JVS Career Services is helping people like Jonathan find the right job for them, no matter what stage of their job search they are in.

How JVS Career Services helped an Israeli transplant find the perfect mix of career and passion

 

“When I told David there might be an IT opportunity in farming, I thought he was going to fall off his chair,” said JVS Career Services Senior Business Development Manager Sherry Gordon. “He couldn’t believe it. I contacted 80 Acres CEO Mike Zelkind, and within an hour, David had an interview.”

JVS Career Services aims to find that sweet spot where qualifications, openings, and passions collide; and that spot couldn’t have been sweeter for David Litvin.

David moved from Israel to Cincinnati with his fiancé in December of 2016. The two met working with an Israeli Scout program. They moved to a kibbutz, where they lived with 50 others; several years later, all 50 joined the Israel Defense Forces (IDF).

Fresh out of the military and ready to begin life in the United States, David’s fiancé began school, and he started looking for a job. He got off to a slow start.

“It didn’t really work out,” he said. “I couldn’t find anything that really interested me. I was looking at jobs in IT or cyber security, but I’m also interested in farming.”

On the kibbutz, David harvested dates as well as built and tended to botanical gardens. While in the IDF, he volunteered on a number of volunteer agricultural projects on his weekends off.

He couldn’t find many openings in Cincinnati that interested him, and the interviews he went on didn’t go very well.

“The interview process in Israel is very different,” David said. “Here it’s a lot more formal, and you need to be intentional about what you say.”

His fiancé’s mom suggested he contact JVS Career Services. Finding an opening he was interested in was quick. Preparing for the interview took a little longer. Sherry helped David hone his interview skills. She helped him develop his resume—from creating the proper layout, to narrowing down his job experience to just the essentials, to developing a punchy cover letter.

“From the moment I stepped in the door, Sherry made me a priority. She made me feel comfortable enough to come back and get the training I needed to find a job,” David said.

So he got to work, preparing for his interview at 80 Acres, a hydroponic farm in Spring Grove Village that provides pesticide-free local vegetables year-round from an indoor farm. Hydro-, as in water. There’s no dirt at this farm. They use technology to create a perfect growing environment and to produce fresh vegetables that go from farm to table in a matter of days (without the need for washing!).

Mike Zelkind was eager to get David in the room for an interview. He gave JVS Career Services a tall order—someone with IT and back-office experience, but who knew something about growing vegetables—and they delivered.

Mike says they put David through the ringer during the interview process, but that he was phenomenal.

“He’s bright, has a great work ethic, and is a tremendous member of the team,” Mike said. “When we hired David, we were looking for someone with the right attitude; the ability to be honest and transparent about what he didn’t know; the ability to adapt and problem-solve; and a knowledge base in advanced technology components, biology, and IT.”

A tall order, with a worthy candidate.

David is now several months into the job as one of three growers at 80 Acres, responsible for cucumbers, tomatoes, and peppers. He ensures they’re growing properly and that there aren’t any diseases or deficiencies. He uses his tech skills to create a highly controlled environment—the lighting, the humidity, the temperature, and more.

80 Acres delivers vegetables to local grocery stores, including Jungle Jim’s, markets in Hyde Park, and Clifton Market. Most vegetables are picked weeks before they’re ripe because they’re shipped long distances; 80 Acres’ veggies are picked just days before they’re eaten. Since there are no bugs or dirt, there’s no need to use pesticides or other chemicals.

“All three growers bring different things to the table, but collectively, they’re incredibly powerful,” Mike said. “In this case, 1+1+1 does not equal 3—but something more like 10. David’s temperament, intuition, and ability to learn add a lot to the team. He’s a critical component to our success.”

For David, finding 80 Acres was more than checking the boxes for both IT and farming.

“I wanted to work for a company that wasn’t a big corporation,” he said. “I wanted somewhere I could really get involved—not just another 9 to 5. I was drawn to a startup because everyone is working to build the company; everyone can bring up ideas and contribute; and you’re not stuck in a cubicle. JVS Career Services understands what you’re looking for. They found the right opening, and gave me the skills I needed to land the perfect job.”

To learn more about JVS Career Services’ career coaching, contact us, email careerservices@jvscareers.org, or call (513) 936-9675