Creating and Managing Successful Internships

Maryland Horse Council Intern Holden Rafey interviewing Olympian Joe Fargis (photo courtesy of Holden Rafey)

I landed my first professional job at WJZ-TV in Baltimore, Md., after serving as an intern while a student at Towson University. At 21-years-old, I became the station’s assistant Public Relations Officer with real duties and responsibilities and had the opportunity to work with industry icons like Oprah Winfrey. I owe that job and experience to my supervisor during my internship, Joyce Kashima.

Although I was only a college student intern, Joyce treated me like an employee. She gave me challenging tasks, taught me to meet deadlines, and made me go out and interact directly with the station’s news personalities. She brought me into meetings and explained why she was doing things and always had time to answer my many questions. I knew I was lucky to have her as a mentor, particularly when I spoke to classmates who did not have the same positive experience during their internships.

I learned from that experience. I’ve managed several internships in the past seven years, so I thought I would offer some tips for those who may be creating and managing internships.

Identify an Internship Coordinator

Name one person as the intern’s go-to person, and train that person in what you would like them to do. The Coordinator should not be the newest employee, but someone with experience who can help the intern learn and grow. It might make sense to rotate an intern through more than one section in your organization, but the intern should still have one coordinator/supervisor. This relationship will reflect what most workplaces will be like and will help your organization keep track of the internship progress.

Have a Written Plan

When bringing in an intern, know what it is you want him or her to do. If possible, have the Intern Coordinator speak to the intern and develop a plan beneficial to both parties. The written plan can include goals, skills to be developed, and specific duties assigned. Make duties rewarding and try to avoid menial tasks which can quickly demotivate interns who are giving your organization their most valuable resource – their time. Here is a link to a  Sample Plan.

Give Back

The internship should be a two-way street. The Internship Coordinator should be a mentor and provide feedback and professional guidance. I recommend written performance reports summarizing interns’ contributions. Reports can follow the Sample Plan’s format with a short Summary section at the end. These reports can become important resume bullets and demonstrate to interns that your organization valued their time.  Also be prepared to spend time providing recommendations, if deserved.

An Intern’s Perspective

This week concluded a successful three-year internship between intern Holden Rafey and the Maryland Horse Council (MHC). I had the pleasure of being Holden’s Internship Coordinator and mentor and asked her if she would be willing to answer a few questions to help others. Here are her thoughts.

  1. What advice would you give to those establishing internships?

Having good communication between the intern and supervisor is important. With proper communication, the intern will know what is expected of them and be able to bring any questions or concerns to their supervisor.

  1. What advice would you give to interns in deciding which internship is right for them?

An internship with something that you are interested in will give you a lot more motivation to complete your assigned tasks than an internship with something you have no interest in. An internship where you get to do or create something concrete that you can show to future employers is also great.

  1. As an experienced successful intern, what advice would you give to other new interns?

Don’t be afraid to ask questions. An internship is an opportunity for you to learn new skills, and you aren’t expected to already know everything. It is better to ask for help or clarification than to do something wrong.

You may like to see Holden’s final blog post of her internship, and while you are there, you can see the many contributions she made in what became MHC’s most widely-read blog!

If anyone has useful internship guidance, tips, or stories, please share. And good luck to all Internship Coordinators and interns out there.

 

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