What Do Interns Really Want? The 12 Most Valued Things From Students’ Internship Wishlist

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So, you have decided to get some Interns in. You want to attract the top talent and achievers. You have also found some platforms to advertise your internship on. Now you need to create a program that appeals to students.

And, here’s where you hit a bump. Because you are not quite sure what you want to offer to the Interns to make this opportunity more attractive & valuable for them.

Well, here’s your solution. This is a list of 12 things that are most valued by interns (a.k.a. what do interns look for when choosing a program? What do interns really want?). And here’s hoping they can give you some ideas to incorporate into your Internship Program!

1. Opportunity for full-time employment (51%)

No surprise here! That’s the whole point of an Internship, isn’t it? A better job, better career prospects.

Most employers are increasingly investing in strategic internship programs to source top talent for full-time positions. A strategic internship program is one of the best ways to proactively identify, attract and engage talent early. Plus, the two-month-long internship period provides the Employer and the Intern time to assess fit for the organization. In fact, studies show that the retention rate is higher of employees who had previously interned at the company versus employees who had not interned, so internship programs pay off as long-term talent acquisition and retention investments.

2. Job Orientation & Training (42%)

Well, once again an Internship is meant to provide exposure & experience to a fresher in his/ her chosen career path or area. Students want internships that allow them to grow, stretch and contribute. Yes, they are Millenials, and irrespective of what you may have heard about their work ethic, they do want to be in a learning environment. Something to take care of in the JD.

3. Good Employer References (29%)

Everyone wants this, Intern or Employee. They do open up better career opportunities. As for the Employer, spread some good word of mouth for your Talent Brand, especially if you have received some valuable work from the talented Intern.

4. Challenging Assignments (20%)

This translates into meaningful work from which both the Intern & You, the Employer, or Your Company, can derive value from. When companies treat interns like an extra pair of hands or a fill-in for a vacationing employee without investing in the content of the intern assignment, this usually leads to a very unhappy, unfulfilled intern. That unfulfilled intern shares her experience with friends on campus and soon the company offering the internship is having trouble finding talent for positions there. Best in class companies develop each intern assignment with documented details about the assignment, deliverables and key measurable goals.”

5. Flexible Working Conditions (19%).

Workplace flexibility is increasingly important to Millennials (the only generation of Interns you will get your hands on currently). Technology has enabled productivity anytime, anywhere—and students who have grown up with the technology want workplaces that leverage it and the flexibility it affords. Young talent looks for firms that offer variable start and end times, and opportunities to work remotely. And why not, they have summer classes, dissertation reports, and what not to take care of along with a potentially life-changing Internship!

6. Competitive Compensation (18%).

Hmmm…this one is tricky. Sure, it’s not all about the money; and, it’s true, you can’t put a price on valuable experience. But the unfortunate reality is that not all students can afford to work for free (especially if work involves travel or calls), no matter how much they might be motivated and interested in your industry. So before you decide you can’t compensate interns at all, consider whether your budget might accommodate a more modest wage. Maybe you should do quick research among your network to see what kind of stipends they are paying.

7. Inclusion or Internal Networking Opportunities (16%)

In line with the learning, the objective is to what extent the organization includes the intern in employee activities. Aside from assigning challenging projects with educational value, inviting interns to meetings and other activities—as participants observers—is an enticing attribute.

Including the intern whenever appropriate serves a dual purpose: It exposes them to more situations in which they can observe supervisor behaviour and interactions. Moreover, it makes them feel part of the team. In the end, an intern who was treated like an “insider” is much more likely to accept a job offer or to speak favourably about a company to their peers.

8. Mentorship (15%)

There’s nothing more frustrating to interns than feeling forgotten: being left hanging around with no one to tell them what to do or to clarify the questions necessary to complete a project. In the best internship programs, there is always someone available. Essentially, when the direct supervisor is out or occupied, there should be someone else assigned to the intern; and the intern should be made aware of this person and how to get a hold of them. Therefore, if at any point the intern has questions, they know there’s someone who can, if not answer their question, at least assign an interim task or let them know when their supervisor will return. Not only does this reduce feelings of frustration, it gives the intern the information they need to succeed. Remember, an intern who feels proud of their accomplishments will more likely feel pleased with the program itself.

9. Client Exposure (13%)

While this may not only be a frightening aspect for many employers, and in some cases, not even relevant, allowing your Interns a certain exposure to your Clients goes a long way in building their work experience. They do not necessarily have to do the talking or presenting. But you may be pleasantly surprised one day, when one of your Interns comes up with an awesome insight having seen, heard, and followed first hand, a given client situation.

10. Inspiring Colleagues (12%)

Friendliness and helpfulness go a long way in affecting an intern’s opinion of an organization. Working alongside your high achievers can actually make the Interns strive towards similar levels of efficiency & productivity. Above all else, interns should be treated with the same respect as any employee—bonus if the environment is free from cattiness, unnecessary drama, and oversized egos.

11. Teamwork (11%)

Well, this goes hand in hand with the Inclusion theory. An Intern is not an alien in your workplace and is not meant to work in a silo. An Intern should work with a team of employees to learn various aspects of teamwork, projects, and achieve a sense of accomplishment.

12. International internship opportunities (10%)

Alright, this may be expecting a little too much. However, if you do have an international vacancy, and the Intern can mostly take care of himself on your regular Intern compensation standards for that part of the world, Why Not? You may actually end up doing your overseas employees a great service.

[By the way, these percentages have been derived from a 2014 survey of Students & Graduates by Universum, a global research and advisory firm, wherein they were asked to identify what they’d most like their internship employer to offer.]

Overall, college students of today are not lazy entitled couch potatoes anymore. They seek meaningful internships that lead to full-time jobs; they want to be challenged, and they crave guidance and support in the workplace. “Robust internships are extremely important to these students”. And, you as employers need to focus on these key points to drive their intern recruitment and conversion-to-full-time hire rates.

All the Best!

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