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Top 7 Priorities For Internship Programs From Top Talent Leaders

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Brittany Tilstra
Ten Thousand Coffees Team -
April 20, 2020

1. Adapt, don’t cancel. 

Before you even think about cancelling your internship program, think about why your organization offers an internship program in the first place. Grooming young talent for full-time roles, getting fresh perspectives, providing mentorship opportunities for more senior associates and more, are all great reasons to keep the program on and go virtual. Students are eager to learn from seasoned professionals and cancelling this opportunity for them could also mean a hit to your recruitment pipeline, your brand, and your relationship with feeder schools.

2. Map out the intern’s journey and identify key touch-points.

From onboarding to the first feedback session, off-boarding or hiring, having the steps laid out clearly with touch-points and check-ins will keep all stakeholders in the loop and accountable. If you have this done already, great! Make sure it’s still relevant to interns who are working remotely. Plus, it doesn’t hurt to add a few more check-ins. People are craving communication and connection more than ever right now, especially your interns.

Pro Tip—Plan intern career development for the long run (remotely or otherwise) and show your interns what a future at your organization looks like. If you think long term, your interns will too, and that’ inspires loyalty. 

3. Repurpose materials.

Don't overcomplicate things and start with what you already have. Whether it’s L&D resources or onboarding documents, focus on existing resources, adjust to the WFH world, and then fill in the gaps like how to create social time online.

4. Clear communication.

In fact, over-communicate. Formally announce that your program is adapting to the new normal and going virtual (this is a great employer branding opportunity, don’t waste it!). Tell your interns ahead of time what communication channels your company uses to WFH and provide any materials that could give them a head start. Be mindful of accessibility and gather feedback anonymously throughout the program to make sure you’re setting your interns up for continued success. 

5. Identify “career development owners.”

Recently we discovered that who owns someone’s career development is often a game of finger-pointing. Employees think it’s on their manager, HR thinks it’s on the employee, and managers are stuck in the middle. Don’t let these lines be blurry—especially when folks are working remotely. Outline who owns what. We recommend empowering interns to drive their own development while having managers act as advocates and facilitators, while HR manages program communications and L&D resources. 

6. Create meaningful relationships on purpose.

This was the most common priority among leaders—fostering friendships while working from home. Work friendships are unlikely to happen online by happy accident, so you need to make a determined effort to provide opportunities for young talent to express their authentic selves and find their tribe at work. Carve out time specifically for interns to socialize beyond their direct working team. Whether it's coffee chats, virtual water cooler hours, or non-work questions in a fun slack channel, these moments are critical to interns feeling like they are part of a greater community.

7. Rally your leadership team and SME’s.

Your more confident interns may have no problem searching the company directory for the people they want to connect with for mentorship, but what about the rest? It takes a community to support an intern in their development. Set up webinars, virtual fireside chats, and Ask-Me-Anything’s so that all your interns have opportunities to get exposure to SME’s and leadership.

Pro Tip—Users of the Ten Thousand Coffees platform can set up Office Hours to facilitate group discussions of varying sizes. Members can also select their goals and interests to be matched with relevant leaders and SME’s. 

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