Providing a Great Internship Experience

In hiring an intern this summer, you have the opportunity to create a significant and transformative experience, both for your intern and yourself. This site contains resources to help you in that process.

First, I highly recommend reading the short article How To Provide A Great Internship Experience At Your Church by The Unstuck Group.

In addition, here are some key principles of leading an intern well.

Have a clear onboarding process. Be ready on their first day to set them up for success. See suggestions here.

Give them real work to do. Not making coffee and copies.

  • As a wise person once said to me, "We learn by doing." So give your intern meaningful work. You will motivate your intern by trusting them with work that matters, then monitoring their progress along the way. They need both trust and support (as we all do).
  • Be specific about the projects and tasks they are responsible for. Being too vague creates confusion and frustration. We all need clarity and structure in order to own our responsibilities and bring our best.
  • Have a specific project in mind that the intern can start right away.

Designate an intern manager. There should be one point person to whom the intern primarily reports. Make it clear to the intern who this is.

  • This person manages the intern’s work load. While the intern may be working on multiple projects for different people, one person is responsible to make sure the intern has enough to do, but is not overloaded.
  • This person makes sure the intern is able to ask questions and get clarification as needed.
  • The intern manager also holds a weekly check-in meeting, as described below.

Hold a weekly check-in meeting. This is a regular 30 minute meeting to see how the work is going, ask questions, and give feedback.

  • Click here for ideas regarding useful questions to ask and what to talk about.

Integrate mentorship discussions. This doesn’t need to be hard, or even take a lot of time, to be incredibly valuable!

  • Here are some resource ideas. It can be as simple as watching a short video clip or reading an article, and then discussing it together.

Create opportunity for social connection. Take your staff out for lunch and invite your intern along. Or bring in take-out. Inclusion in simple social events will help your intern feel valued and a part of the team.

Show your appreciation. We all feel unsure and a bit vulnerable when we are trying new things and learning new skills. Be intentional about expressing your appreciation.

  • Be specific about particular things you see them doing well.
  • Highlight their work in a Sunday morning service. Perhaps have a “prayer of commissioning” at the beginning of the summer, and a moment of appreciation at a final service when the internship is wrapping up.

Conduct an “exit interview”. Debrief the summer experience with your intern. You can help them process what they learned over the summer. As well, you can get useful feedback from them about how the internship could be improved in the future.

Some of these ideas came from the following articles. You could check them out for more detail.