As college career fair season nears, it’s important to focus on developing a dialogue and employer brand with those prospective employees and interns.  Last week, we discussed recruitment strategies as part of planning your campus recruiting efforts.  But more importantly, how does one build an intern program?  Like building a gingerbread house, you start at the beginning.  Here are six ways to get you started in building a formal and organized internship program that turns your interns into life long employees. 

How to Build Your College Internship Programs

  • ·      Ask Your Audience.  If you have an existing internship program or have hired recent college graduates, start by asking them for feedback and insights immediately.  You can do this using an informal meeting or focus group or an online survey to gather insights, information, and recommendations.  Starting any program requires research, asking questions, and developing a best practice from those that know.  
  • ·      Get to Know Career Services.  Your college or university career services is a great way to start building and creating your internship program.  Ask them about best practices on campus, and what tools and strategies are most effective to reach the student population.  Don’t forget to get to know the specific college program career services representatives.  These individuals work for the college directly and although they are affiliated with career services, they are the specific college degree program’s first point of contact for their students. 
  • ·      Talk to Your Peers.  Learning from others is a great way to establish and build an internship program at your work.  Companies like Disney and Google have some of the best intern programs in the world.  Most students need structure and a more formal curriculum to learn best.  Interns are not just warm bodies at low wages used to work menial jobs.  They are our future leaders and employees so it’s important to focus on their experience, learnings, and what works.  Ask around.  I guarantee, you’ll learn a thing or two. 
  • ·      Gather Intel on Social Media.  Social media is a great resource for informally polling and building relationships with your audience.  Reach out to students at your college campus who are on Twitter.  Research popular college hash tags, specific degree program chats, and different intern program blogs and resources online.  Listen and engage, but most importantly listen.  It’s the best way to research and learn about the audience you are trying to reach. 
  • ·      Share Knowledge and Resources.  Sharing resources and information online through social networks and email newsletters is a great way to establish creditability and build your employer brand.  You can either take the time to build an internship or young professional blog for prospective internship applicants driving them to your careers website and information or share with them great resources from other websites.  Writing content and articles takes time.  Depending on your company’s budget, time constraints, and commitment level, you can make the best decision. 
  • ·      Establish a Work Team.  Whether it’s hiring an outside expert to help you navigate and create an internship program that keeps students talking or using internal employees and resources, it’s important to establish a work team with formal and specific deadlines.  These team members need to be passionate and committed to developing an internship program that out does your competition. 

Developing an Internship Program

Successful internship programs do not have to be complex to be effective, but they must be organized and provide the students within that program valuable learning experiences and information.  Take the time to gather feedback from your interns throughout the process allowing you to improve your program on the fly.  
Jessica Miller-Merrell, SPHR is a workplace and technology strategist specializing in social media.  She’s an author who writes at Blogging4Jobs. You can follow her on Twitter @blogging4jobs

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