An intern, whether paid or unpaid, is a vital part of any organization. An intern seeks hands-on experience in a professional setting while learning about the work environment and polishing skills. Every organization that relies on college student interns should identify specific goals so interns have a rewarding experience and the organization accomplishes its objectives. The interns also must establish personal goals that will help them build their careers.
Discuss and agree upon objectives about the position on the first day of the internship. The intern and supervisor should identify responsibilities and expectations, set realistic deadlines, and encourage questions and suggestions.
Create assignments that include meaningful and challenging work. Identify each assignment's objectives and understand why each is important to the organization. Assignments for interns should be structured similarly to those for a new employee.
Outline teamwork assignments and independent assignments. Identify roles and the work the intern needs to accomplish when assignments involve a team effort. Do the same for independent assignments.
Establish measurement guidelines. Agree on how the completed tasks will be reviewed and evaluated. Measure results against objectives, and assign a value to each accomplishment to use in the final evaluation of the intern's work.
Communicate and review assignments periodically. Frequent communications initiated by either side will help the intern complete assignments, overcome obstacles and meet deadlines.
Write the goals after agreeing on objectives. When an intern and supervisor understand the scope of the work, how much time the intern can provide and how much work he can accomplish, commit goals to paper.
Each goal must include several components: 1) Identify the assignment, the tactics to accomplish the task and the expected date of completion. 2) Identify results you can measure and track to determine success. 3) Make sure the results are reasonable and can be attained. 4) Make sure each assignment and corresponding measurement is relevant to overall organization objectives. 5) Create a timeline that incorporates the start time, midterm review and adjustments, and completion of each goal.
Write, edit and re-write goals until they are clear and will help manage objectives. Include fall-back plans should circumstances develop that require re-evaluation of assignments or objectives.
Review all goals. Intern and supervisor must discuss each goal separately to ensure that each one can be achieved and measured.
Finalize the goals. Make any necessary and agreed-upon adjustments. Mutually agree to follow the plan and communicate regularly to refine the goals as required.
Students and supervisors should establish close working relationships. By attending meetings and being encouraged to offer ideas, the intern becomes more confident. This open relationship also helps the supervisor/mentor guide the intern's work.