College students want an impactful, relevant work experience. Even in the short amount of time that they are interns, they want to be able to make an impact in some way on a project, product, service, customer, or organization.
Yes, it is spring. And, spring reminds me of those college days when I was studying for finals and making plans for the summer. I hate to say this, but internships were not on my mind, especially since they were not as prevalent then (no, I am not going to tell you my age).
Well, these days many college students are in the process of frantically finding an internship program that will help them prepare for their future careers and hopefully provide them with some money.
The Students’ Perspective
But, what do college students really want to get out of an internship program? In my research experience, college students are very serious about internship programs and what they would like to get out of those programs. And, how can employers find out if their internship program is as effective as it could be?
Here are a few of my general learnings conducting research among college students, across a variety of subject majors.
Impact: College students want an impactful, relevant work experience. Even in the short amount of time that they are interns, they want to be able to make an impact in some way on a project, product, service, customer, or organization. They want to be able to learn what it takes to pursue their career and for that to happen, the internship responsibilities should include some sort of meaningful work related to their careers.
Connection: Students want to meet with others in their field, especially leaders, so that their learning can be facilitated and they can find career mentors.
Learning: Students want to learn about the organization and its culture. They want to see if they are aligned with the culture, values, and position. They also want to learn about the development and training programs that are available.
The Job: Of course, they want a permanent job. However, based on their experience and the organizations’ plans and assessment, that may or may not occur.
The Organizations’ Perspective
I believe that organizations that take the time and resources to establish an internship program want to achieve a high intern-to-employee conversion rate. In order to improve that ratio, organizations need to seek feedback from their college interns on the internship and the recruitment/selection experience and evaluate their own internship practices so that they can make the appropriate changes to the program.
One organization, Tofaş Turk Otomobil Fabrikasi, a car manufacturer from Turkey, received a Brandon Hall Group Silver Excellence Award for its intern sourcing and assessment program, which was very effective at measuring interns’ satisfaction levels with the internship program, the interviewing process, and the orientation program. One of the lessons learned from their evaluation was to move-up the selection process earlier in the calendar year.
Getting feedback on your internship program and your hiring and selection process is critical to ensure high-performance in internship programs. As a matter of fact, feedback, whether it is among new hires, graduates, students, or candidates, is always critical to your organization’s overall talent acquisition success.
Now, let’s all spring forward into best practices for talent acquisition!