Internship Best Practices

Preparing for Your Intern

As soon as a student is matched with your company, you are encouraged to reach out and begin the onboarding process. You will have several months to begin welcoming your intern to the company and preparing your intern for a successful experience. 

Cover the basics of working at your company

  • Notify your intern of appropriate dress code for the office.
  • Ensure your intern knows how to access the building and what needs to be provided at building security, if applicable.Share public transportation tips with your intern regarding the best routes to access the office.
  • Make sure your intern knows what procedure to follow when asking for time-off or when other changes need to be made to the work schedule.
  • Clarify with your intern who their supervisor is, since that person is likely different from the HR professional who has been communicating with them so far in the process.
  • Have your intern’s workspace prepared in time for their first day.

Provide your intern with a job description or outline of projects

  • Making the job description available as early as possible will provide your intern with time to ask questions and prepare for the work. If the description or outline is tentative, providing examples or overall expectations are a great starting point.
  • A mentor to help guide the intern during their employment can be very helpful. If your organization can dedicate the resources to establishing a mentoring relationship to your intern, selecting a strong mentor is important.

Making the Most of the Internship

Engineering City Scholars is a university-company-city partnership to bring and retain Illinois Engineering tech talent to Chicago

The goals of the program are to:

  1. Showcase the tech ecosystem in Chicago
  2. Connect networks of tech professionals, executives, experts, and civic leaders
  3. Introduce students to Chicago
  4. Ensure students maintain progress toward graduation

By designing a rich internship that incorporates the following tips, City Scholars and their employers will both experience benefits from the semester-long program.

Give interns real work 

  • This is critical to your program’s success. Ensure that the project your intern is completing is related to their major, is challenging, is recognized by the organization as valuable and that fills the entire work term
  • Before the internship begins, go over the proposed project with your intern and ask how this project aligns with their goals and skills. If it is possible to make adjustments to the project based on the intern’s feedback, then discuss that with them.

Showcase your employees and the city

  • Speakers from the executive ranks are very popular with students. They especially enjoy casual interactions that have been designed just for them. This is a great career development and role modeling experience for interns.
  • New-hire panels are also an excellent way to showcase an organization to interns as a great place to work. Ask employees who were hired as new grads within the last few years to give a brief summary of their background, explain their career development path and then answer questions.
  • Take every chance you can to help your intern get to know the city of Chicago. Especially try to introduce them to the engineering and technology community and describe to them the opportunities available to new graduates beginning their careers in Chicago.

Include your intern in company events and activities

  • Invite your intern to company meetings and events. These are valuable learning experiences for students and will also make them feel part of the team.
  • Allow your intern to attend in-house trainings that are offered. These trainings can be formal or informal and should cover both technical skills and general advice, such as time management. This is a tangible way to show students you are interested in their development.
  • If your office participates in outside-of-work events, ask your intern to join. These social interactions help students learn how to network, which can often be intimidating to them.

Create opportunities for feedback and recognition 

  • Throughout the term, you should schedule time to give your intern feedback on performance and ask about their experience. These should be in addition to regular meetings with a mentor. You do not want to find out at the end of the term that your intern had a negative experience. Creating these times to check-in will allow for changes to be made to allow for the best experience on both sides of the internship.
  • Give interns a chance to showcase results of the internship at the conclusion of the term. Setting up a venue for them to do presentations (formal presentations or in a fair-type setting such as an expo) not only allows them to demonstrate their achievements, but also showcases the internship program to all employees.
  • Conducting an exit-interview–face-to-face or over the telephone–is an excellent way to gather feedback on the student’s experience and to assess their interest in coming back. Having the students fill out an exit survey and bring it to the interview gives some structure to the conversation.

Beyond the Internship

The College of Engineering hopes that corporate partners decide to extend employment offers to City Scholars interns after their semester internship is completed. The negotiated City Scholars hourly rate no longer applies after the conclusion of the program, so companies are able to adjust compensation as they wish. 

As the City Scholars program continues to develop and evolve, the College of Engineering appreciates all feedback from partner companies. However, feedback will be requested at the program’s mid-point as well as at the conclusion of the semester to assess:

  • Student performance
  • Program satisfaction
  • Offers to interns to continue employment with the company
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