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Via Forbes : Upgrade Your Interns: Keys To Making An Internship Program Valuable

With summer in the rearview mirror, the noise level in the office has gone down a couple notches, and the kitchen shelves aren’t quite as bare. Without context, that might seem like a good thing, but we’re actually pretty torn up about it. Because it means our interns have left. Even though they were with us for mere months, they quickly became just as much a part of our culture as any full-time employee—and their energy and enthusiasm is something we’re having a tough time learning to live without.

Interns arrive bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, ready to tackle the world as they embark upon what is for many their first real job. Unfortunately, not all internships are created equal. While everyone jokes about how interns are for paper shredding and coffee runs, sometimes those jokes are far too close to the truth. Take a look at these intern horror stories:

Keyera interned with a startup in hopes of gaining experience in public relations. She ended up spending all her time calling and emailing organizations asking for donations and grant money. “It turned out the head of this startup was looking for free labor instead of the opportunity to mentor college students to gain experience.”

Adam accepted an internship at a local game development startup at the end of his undergraduate degree. “I was promoted to lead designer of the project at the end of the first week, and it was then that I realized that I knew more about game development than the person who was supposed to be mentoring me.”

Ron had an accounting internship that started out full of valuable experience. However, after the busy tax season, his manager ran out of work for him and assigned Ron to file scanning. Over the next four months, he scanned close to 20,000 pages. “Ever since that summer, every time I hear a machine scan a document, I run away.”

And finally Jesse, whose internship with a local hospital’s ophthalmology department sadly proved that sometimes stereotypes are 100% spot on. Jesse spent every single day shredding papers, never once interacting with the doctor or patients. “I would sit in the optometrist’s office and shred using a cheap shredder that could only take a couple of pages at a time. After about 15 minutes of use, it would heat up and stop shredding, so I would have to wait around for it to cool down.”

So obviously some internships are broken. Interns face unavailable managers, no formal training, busy work or a lack of work altogether, and no clear goals. They finish the summer with no useful skills, no relevant experience, no meaningful relationships, and deflated enthusiasm.

Six years ago, we hired our first intern at Lucid, and we knew we wanted our program to be different. Interns aren’t for coffee runs, and you can give them real-world learning experience while simultaneously creating value for your company. We want our interns to feel immersed in the culture, working on real projects that produce real impact. We want them to stay bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. Here’s how we try and do it.

Trust them with hard things.

When our VP of engineering Brian Pugh first meets with potential interns, he explains our internship philosophy. “An internship with most companies, even hot tech companies like Google and Microsoft, means working on a project that may never see the light of day. At Lucid, within 3-4 weeks, interns will have worked on code that is out in our production system being used by millions of users. There are bug fixes or new features in the product that interns can point to as something they personally worked on.”

We don’t dream up separate “intern projects” that are presented at the conclusion of the summer. Instead, we place our interns on a team and give them work that integrates directly with the overall team objectives. For example, engineering interns are placed on an existing scrum team and treated like any other team member, diving headfirst into the issues that team is responsible for and working on real features that become the next big things in our product. In fact, many employees find it difficult to distinguish between full-time hires and interns, only realizing when the interns disappear come September. Brian says, “I know it has been successful summer when a co-worker says to me at the end of the summer, ‘He/she is back in school? I didn’t realize he/she was an intern!'”

Last summer, our graphic design intern helped kick off Flowchart Fridays, a huge campaign that is still running today and that has received numerous local and national awards. During this intern’s first couple weeks at Lucid, she designed the very first flowcharts for the campaign. They have hundreds of thousands of page views to date and remain some of the most viewed in the campaign. This campaign has been crucial in allowing us to reach new audiences with our software.

Two of our marketing interns built hundreds of diagram templates that customers can actually use. Each template was published as an individual page, and they have helped us rank for dozens and dozens of valuable keywords.
The feedback we hear most often from our interns is how much they appreciate being given this real experience rather than fake projects that fade into oblivion once they leave. We truly value the work our interns do, and we make sure they are well aware of that. Frankly, we are baffled that so many companies waste interns’ time and talent on unimportant projects.

Give the interns a chance. See what they can do. It’s likely they will surprise you.

Treat them like the real thing.

How, you might ask, do I comfortably pass the reigns on a real project to an intern who barely looks 14? I realize that can be a bit disconcerting. But if you’ve hired the best of the best, they are ready to handle it.

Hiring the right interns might not seem as important as hiring for full-time positions. It’s just a summer, right? But you can’t treat internships like short-term relationships. In fact, we hold our interns to the same high bar as we do our regular hires. We are looking for the cream of the crop, and we put our intern candidates through the same rigorous interviewing process as we do our normal candidates. For example, engineering interns take the same programming test, are asked the same algorithm, language, modeling, and behavioral questions, and are held to the same high GPA standard as full-time hires.

So yes, the recruiting and the hiring can be a long process when you have such a high bar. But the process is a smart long-term investment. We’re building a pipeline of qualified candidates, and we hire our interns with the intention of offering full-time positions if the internship goes well. You can put them through the ringer now, or you can do it later.

In addition, internship programs are an easy way to build goodwill for your company and expand your footprint. Interns talk—they are going to tell others about their experience (and keep in mind that they’re going to do so whether it’s good or bad). Our interns have become Lucid ambassadors, representing the company at career fairs and generally raising awareness about our company among university students.

Pair them up.

Don’t send your interns on a wild goose chase. Set them up for success and make sure they have access to the people who will help them achieve that. In addition to the manager they report to, all interns are assigned a mentor from day one.

Mentorships offer a chance for more informal relationships that facilitate open communication. Mentors help interns feel comfortable and quickly get up to speed. In doing so, interns are able to start contributing to meaningful projects right away—the best way to learn is by getting their hands dirty. On our engineering team, mentors often pair program with interns, always review interns’ code changes, and help interns learn the intricacies of the system. We have a graphic design intern who started working with her mentor on a big summer campaign the day after she started.

Immerse them in the day-to-day.

Key to making an internship valuable is ensuring interns are immersed in the culture. And the best way to make sure that happens is to integrate them in existing teams from the get-go. That way, they are living the culture every day rather than listening to you talk about it.

We bring all of our interns on our company retreat at the beginning of the summer. That means our retreat count hit nearly 300 this year. But it’s worth it. The experience allows them to feel a part of the company and to meet people they don’t normally interact with. The informal setting fosters relationship building within and across teams and can put even the most nervous interns at ease.

Every summer, we also hold a Hackathon where employees are invited to come up with ideas for new product features, join a team and create something amazing in just a few days. Many hackathon projects become key features in the products. Interns are strongly encouraged to join (or form) a team and participate. Last year, an intern was on the winning team that came up with Feature Find, which was released to the production system and had a significant impact to our business. This year, an intern was part of a team that spent three days converting 600,000 lines of JavaScript to TypeScript, working off of very little sleep and averaging one file per minute for 48 hours straight. When asked why he joined such an ambitious project, the intern said, “We chose this project because we are absolutely crazy and we don’t know when to call it quits on a joke.”

We also want our interns to feel comfortable with one another and to have that network as another support system. In addition to the company-wide events, we have intern-only activities throughout the summer, such as baseball games, BBQs, and hikes.

So give your interns a shot. Find the golden ones and put them to work on things that really matter and produce value for themselves and your company. Let them think they can tackle the world—and please don’t squash their enthusiasm with coffee runs.

via BostonglobeAre you lost when it comes to finding an internship?

For those of you panicking about not having a summer internship yet, relax! You have time to find one. Finding an internship can be divided into these steps: figuring out what type of placement is best for you, the application process, and the interview process.

Create a quick list of things that are important to you. Do you need to get paid? Do you want to see a new city? Do you want to work in a group or on your own? How important is prestige to you? How much free time do you want to have? What skills do you want to learn, and want do you want your day-to-day work life to look like?

These questions are much more important than the ones you might first think of: What’s going to look good on my resume? What career do I want to have?

Here’s why. Down the road, most employers will care less about the specific internships you had than the fact that you worked steadily. Many creative or unusual internships in different fields are a positive. If you are a rising senior in college or a graduate student, you may have to worry much more about whether your internship might lead to a job, but for high schoolers and early college students, try something you might not be used to. Focusing on what skills you want to learn (research, writing, leadership, etc.) will be better for you in the long run than what job you learn them in.

Use your college’s resources and Google to find jobs that let you do those things. There are, in general, three types of internships: government (it might be a bit late for those), the private sector, and nonprofits. List companies that seem cool, even if they are out of your reach for an internship, and nonprofits in areas that interest you. Interested in journalism? Create a list of journalists you admire and the companies they work for. Want to work with kids in Africa? Google “paid internships in Africa.”

Think out of the box. Maybe you can’t work with Doctors Without Borders, but scoring an internship as a summer analyst at Goldman Sachs in the Middle East may give you free time to also travel and volunteer.

Reach out to people who have the jobs you want and ask them how they got there. This is why the previous step is so important: You have to know what you are talking about when you talk to them. Don’t be afraid to reach out to big shots; it’s remarkably easy to contact people who are successful in their fields. Before I became a columnist, I talked to big names in the news media, the editors of major newspapers, and public figures who wrote weekly columns. As long as you are asking for information and not a job, they’ll help you out.

Want to work at Apple? Look on LinkedIn for a manager at Apple and ask them for 15 minutes of their time. They’ll tell you what types of internships will help you get the skills you need to be a competitive applicant — and many will even connect you to friends looking for interns, if they can.

Start applying for jobs. Once you have a list of places to look at and have a few mentors who can advise you, apply. Clean up your resume, write personalized cover-letters to every job, and follow up. Don’t miss deadlines by including due dates and “E-mail [contact] at [company]” in your calendar.

If you are rejected, always thank them for their time and ask if they have advice on how to make yourself more competitive. Ninety percent of the time, you won’t get a response, but the few times you do, you will get great advice on how to improve your resume.

Prepare for the interviews. When interviewing and in your application, explain why this job is so important to you and will add value to your career goals and life plans. This is why the first step was so important. If done right, you will be very persuasive about the skills, contacts, and summer experience you hope to gain from this job in particular, and you will care about more than just the resume boost. Always show interest in the ethics, values, and goals of the institution.

Treat the interview more like meeting a mentor than an interview. Answer questions they have about you clearly and concisely. Figure out three things you want to share about yourself that are tied to what the company looks for and make sure you convey them. Take the time to ask about how they got their jobs, what internships they had, and advice they have for their career. If you feel up to it, end the interview by asking, “If there is anything I can clarify about my resume or my experiences that would make me a better candidate, what would they be?” It’s a risky question, but usually interviewers will be honest and you have one final opportunity to convince them you have the skills for the job. 

Via YouTube : More students are starting to realise that being a student and an entrepreneur is an excellent way to accelerate their personal growth and help them identify their passions. Starting a business while at university can lead to many long-term benefits that an internship could never match. Hear how student entrepreneur Christopher Drake is doing just that, and what he has learned!

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