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How will you drive intern success this summer?

Updated: Apr 26, 2023

When your company is trying to find your future teammates, leaders, and changemakers, internships are one of the strongest tools in your arsenal. Internships are the on-ramp for many college students into their first role after graduation. To increase the chances your interns return for a full-time role, you’ll need to make sure to provide an engaging experience across the board. Have you thought about how to enable your intern’s success? A successful internship program starts with managing the success of your interns. Here are a few crucial tips to ensure your interns get the most out of their experience.

Hold Regular Check-ins

Routine one-on-one meetings are a common practiced between employees and their senior managers. It’s important interns get the same treatment. Most interns are entering their first industry role and will need to absorb a significant amount of knowledge as they settle in. Making sure they are readily equipped with all the tools they need to succeed is vital to maintaining project timelines and avoiding frustration.

These one-on-ones allow managers to understand how the intern themselves is doing. Together, intern and manager can set and discuss goals as they change throughout the program. Do your interns feel valued, included, and excited to work? If they feel like they’re sitting in the corner twiddling their thumbs, then the internship may be wasting everyone’s time and resources. Stay clued in to make sure that your intern has a path forward, is solving any major problems, and knows that their managers and mentors are accessible on all fronts. Check out some questions you should be asking every week to stay on top of your intern’s needs.

Give interns ownership and context

No matter our position, we all like feeling that our work is valued by those around us. Managers should think about how they can empower their interns through Servant Leadership. Servant leaders take great care to address the psychological needs of each of their followers. Remember to include your interns in your company community and culture, where the impacts of their day-to-day work can be seen by other team members. Share both positive and constructive feedback throughout the course of the internship and watch how interns respond.

An intern only has a limited time at the company to make an impact. It’s important they use this time as best they can. By holding them to a high standard of independent work while providing any support should they need it, you’ll be able to encourage an intern to develop true ownership. Share context by engaging your interns in the bigger picture work of the company to help them become invested in the company, and increase their chance of retention, as they continue on their journey to full-time employment.

Create SMART goals

Having a framework to help guide long-term goals will help interns translate their experience from the rigid structure of school assignments and projects to the work at your organization. We use SMART goals internally and with all of our pre-internship programs. It’s a great framework for setting goals and translates well when students return to classes. SMART is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound. Each of these aspects should be well defined for any goal.

Building SMART goals together with an intern is a great way to kick off a summer together. If done properly, both you and your intern will understand each other’s expectations. By knowing what the goalposts of the summer are, they will be able to communicate their needs more effectively and adhere to the flow of the team’s work schedule. As they return to campus, the SMART framework can also be useful for their team projects or classes, as goal setting and project leadership is rarely a skill taught in class.

Create opportunities for learning

Different people learn best through different means and interns are no different. Ensuring that they have a number of ways to learn critical information will boost their confidence and help them execute on their projects.

There are a few sources of learning that should be available to each intern. Number one is an assigned employee mentor in the role that your intern is interested in moving into. It’s important to make sure your intern knows that their mentor is fully open to being approached, and should be used as a valuable resource.

“Lunch and Learns” and relevant seminars are useful ways to convey industry specific knowledge and company culture. The gap between academic content differs wildly depending on the industry. These events help bridge that gap for your interns, and are prime ways to boost intern understanding of topics that seem like second nature to your managers. If your company does not currently run any “ lunch and learns,” they might be a fun way to upskill your teams and create better cross-functional understanding.

Events and resources aside, the best way to learn is through hands-on experience. Solving difficult technical problems and building key foundational skills are core values of an internship. The gaps in understanding that your intern is going to highlight what learning opportunities they need before entering the team.


If you are having a difficult time communicating the institutional knowledge that your team has to an intern, you’re not alone. On average, 42% of the skills and expertise required to perform any given position is known only by the person currently in that position. A strong training and onboarding experience can sharply increase time to productivity for new hires, especially interns. If you’re having trouble creating and communicating your institution’s knowledge base from scratch, check out Internship on Demand for your knowledge transfer needs, or reach out to

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