Characteristics of a Quality, World Class Internship

Quality internship sites have the following characteristics:

  • Provide substantive and challenging work experiences
  • Planning and structure of position prior to student beginning internship (breadth and depth); (minimal "go-fer" clerical work); opportunity to apply principles learned in and outside the classroom; realistic goals/projects; predetermined outputs to make up a formal portfolio that the intern can show future employers as evidence of their work and accomplishments.
  • Strong training/orientation for student(s), including company culture, office procedures, etc. in addition to training for specific job duties.
  • On-going structured supervision by a primary supervisor that includes regularly scheduled (at least weekly) meetings; opportunities for feedback; adequate opportunities for students to ask questions; meet monthly to review progress on supervisor's and student's learning goals; ideally, a mentoring* relationship.
  • Opportunity to observe professionals in action: participate in staff meetings, client meetings, attend presentations and/or conference workshops, and talk with professionals in the department about their jobs and career paths.
  • Opportunity to develop specific skills (i.e. research, writing, computer, presentation skills).
  • Provide evaluation of overall experience; provide closure through recognition of intern contributions, reflection on learning experiences, and wrap-up on-going projects; provide follow-up if necessary (letters of recommendation, networking, etc.)
  • Some organizations provide professional development opportunities (e.g. presentations by upper-management to all interns within the organization, informational interviews, brown bag lunch seminars, etc.) and if there are multiple interns in a new location, some organizations provide social opportunities (picnics, movie night, etc.).
  • Encourage and provide opportunities to read professional and company publications.

*A mentor is someone who assumes the responsibility to develop, challenge, and guide the intern toward their goals.

Thanks to Julie Agee Gillaspy, Southern Methodist University and John Sullivan, San Francisco State University for this list.