A guideline for employers

If prepared and run well, Innovative Internships can be very beneficial to both employers and students. And also school or college would benefit, since ‘experiential learning’ is often hard to offer in a school environment.

The need for Innovative Internships

Because of Covid-19, many employers are experiencing existential challenges to their business models, and are looking for innovative ways to survive the pandemic and thrive in the post-virus world.  To do so, many businesses must literally re-invent themselves.  

The Innovative Internship program is designed by the Bainbridge Island Rotary Club (Rotary), Bainbridge Youth Services (BYS), and FindMino to help employers in doing so by providing them access to the innovative minds of college, high school and community college students. They are available for other communities as well, when signed up with Findmino.com. (check by sending an email to [email protected])

What is an Innovative Internship

An Innovative Internship is a program based on a team-approach towards problem solving spread over 2 – 3 month. It provides individuals with an experience both as an intern and on a team, to explore what it’s like to consult with you as a client and help support your organization or business develop innovative solutions for problems and adaptation strategies needed for successful continuity. An Innovative Internship team typically consists of 4-6 students with varying backgrounds, from high school, to trade school, community college and/or college.

What’s in it for you as an employer?

If run well, the internship would get you these benefits:

  • Have a group of students work on a burning tactical or strategic issue at their organization, coached by senior professionals.
  • Have Access to younger generations’ way of working, way of thinking. Changes in attitude towards work and learning with younger generations are significant in many respects. Social media and dependence on online resources has had an enormous impact. Innovation Internships create a great way to get to grips with this.
  • A potential new hire. It depends a bit on what education trajectory the student is planning to take, but generally many organizations do use internships as a way to select future hires.
  • Doing good to your community. Helping students ‘bridge the gap’ from theory to practice is invaluable to getting them ready for their search for the right career path, the path to fulfilment and independence. It is rewarding to contribute to this; for them, for you, for the impact and reputation your organization has to your community.

What’s in it for the student?

  • A first impression of ‘work’. The impression that students have of ‘work’ in general is often unrealistic. The internship could help them get ready for work life. Experience the dynamics of goals and delivery, working with colleagues, understanding decision making, etc.
  • A reality check on career direction. Students either have a good idea about where they want to go, or don’t have a clue. The internship could offer invaluable experience to test a career direction they have in mind. Is it indeed what they expected? Should they reconsider? And for those who just don’t know yet: would this be something to consider? Is this something that nicely builds on my talents and interests? Or the opposite?
  • Supporting your organization & have an impact. The Innovative Internship offers an unique experience to students, to explore what it’s like to consult with a client and help support an organization or business develop innovative solutions for problems and adaptation strategies needed for successful continuity. Students may have an important impact to your organization.
  • The start of a network. We all know the importance of having the right network to get things done. The internship could serve as an important reminder and building block for students to start creating their network.

So, how to make the internship successful?

  • Choose the right project. Think about what activities you can expose the students to so they can learn a lot about your business, or your industry. Carve out a project that is either strategic or tactical, which requires immediate attention.
  • Set and agree goals. List the things you think would be key for the students to get out of the internship. This could be a mix of more generic goals around ‘work experience’ and more specific goals that relate to the project or activities concerned . Make it a mix of performance goals relevant to your organisation, and learning goals relevant for the students. Remember that it is likely your students have different educational backgrounds. Assign goals relative to their competencies, but also take into account their interests and ambition levels.
Making the internship a success
  • Manage an effective induction. This could well be the first work experience the students will have. Make it a memorable one. Induction is about the small and big things. From the welcome, to having prepared your team, to having booked a series of meetings before the students start. Give them a taste of what your organization is doing, what kind of activities you have, what kind of customers you serve, what kind if external contacts or third parties you are in touch with. Also show them how your organization is structured. And share with them what culture you have. Talk about your competitors, and how you stand out. Share -if possible- your strategic goals. If necessary have the student sign an NDA.
  • Give feedback. It will be key to offer regular feedback. Feedback is often the biggest source of learning. Younger generations are more eager for feedback than older ones. Share your observations of how the student picks up new knowledge, builds contacts, behaves in a new environment. And of course, review how they make progress against their learning goals. Make sure to give balanced feedback and be constructive. Err on kindness at the expense of directness.
  • Stay in touch. As said before, the internship could serve as an important step for the student to build their network. Apart from that, the student may be a candidate for your organization over time. Exchange contact details and make it a habit to send a regular message to the student’s email of home address to stay connected.


Building successful internships: Lessons from the research for interns, schools, and employers

Employer Guide to Structuring a Successful Internship Program

6 Ways to Create a Successful Intern Program

9 Ways to Give Effective Employee Feedback