4 steps to building a more impactful internship program

by | Jul 26, 2022

Illustration by Monica Torrejon: Person going to work on a skateboard
Image Credit: Rosie - Monica Torrejon
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At We Are Rosie, we’re building a more inclusive, flexible, and human future of work by creating opportunities for marketers in all seasons of their career. As our company and impact grows, we’re constantly leaning into the question, “How can we bring our mission to life in new ways?”

One recent answer: an internship program.

No, not one that goes down the well-worth path of hiring young people only from certain universities or networks, or thinking about interns as short-term labor (that’s what your flex talent strategy is for).

Determined to dismantle the inequities of the working world, we decided to craft a different kind of internship experience. We based our program on We Are Rosie’s core values of inclusion and care, and our belief that investing in the next generation is a way for any organization to help manifest a more equitable future of work.

As we wrap up our first-ever summer internship program, we’re sharing four principles that have guided us along the way and can be applied to the development of impactful internship programs in any industry.

1. Reach beyond your network to hire for your internship program

Providing access to opportunity can and should be a goal of your internship process. Between 70% and 80% of employers offer their interns jobs after graduation; if you’re looking to create or maintain a workforce that recognizes people as whole humans and values differences, then diversify your internship talent pool—it can be a primary pipeline for employees in the future.

At We Are Rosie, we did this by joining forces with CareerSpring, which connects first-generation college students and graduates with a professional network and career opportunities through paid internships.

2. Give students a clear internship work plan to develop the skills they need

Before you decide to offer an internship program, work with your internal teams to find out who has the capacity and willingness to create a supportive environment for interns and provide them with meaningful work.

Prep for their first day by developing a clear agenda and goals for each intern, and work with them to make sure the experience meets their objectives as well as yours. Be sure to consider both role-specific learning opportunities as well as more general ones. Writing, public speaking, presentation design, and contributing as part of a team are skills your interns can take with them to any workplace—or bring back to yours.

At We Are Rosie, the jewel of our program with CareerSpring has been our mid-program projects. In collaboration with their team leads, each intern creates and shares a 5- to 10-minute presentation about what they’ve learned. While we don’t dictate the content, we encourage our interns to speak about their takeaways, our culture, and how we can improve. These projects are a wonderful capstone of the program, allowing our students to develop real-world skills while also helping us uncover innovative ideas to move We Are Rosie forward. It’s a win-win!

3. Encourage interns to get to know each other and their coworkers

Helping interns build relationships is ultimately helping them build the professional network that will carry them into the future. By creating forums–virtual or in-person–for students to interact and collaborate with their team, you’re giving them the soft skills they need to succeed.

We kicked off our internships with welcome gifts, swag, and introduction lunches, where the interns got to know each other and our company. They’re included in all team and department meetings and not just invited to be bystanders—we invite them to actively participate.

We’re planning to close out the program with goodbye gatherings, both for our intern cohort and for each intern with their specific team. These are designed as more of a “see you later” moment, because we encourage our interns to continue developing their networks with the We Are Rosie team long after their internship officially ends.

4. Allow interns to learn about different roles

Internships are about so much more than just hard skills and soft skills. They allow young people to explore possible career paths within the field they’re considering. By creating opportunities for your interns to talk with people at different levels of your organization, you help them gather information that can shape important decisions about their future.

And, the learning process doesn’t need to be a one-way street. With an open mind, executives can learn from their interns. These young people are coming into your organization with fresh eyes and recent studies. Ask them open-ended questions and give them the support and opportunity to provide honest feedback on how you’re doing and where they see areas for improvement. Be open to innovation!

We’ve brought this to life with weekly one-on-ones between each intern and their team lead and “Career Journey” conversations with our executive team.

Providing opportunities for all interns to grow, not only as students, but as future coworkers, employees, and managers is the responsibility of your organization’s leadership. This creates a unique chance for business leaders to influence the future. If you’re looking for an opportunity to think globally and act locally in your business, look no further than how you welcome students into your workplace.

Written by Talya Esserman
Talya Esserman is the Head of People Operations at We Are Rosie where she leads a team of people empower-ers in operations, engagement, DEI, and scalability to promote the rapid growth and mission of We Are Rosie. She is an ambitious, creative leader with a passion for developing and enhancing team functionality, strategy, culture, communications, and relationships. Follow her on LinkedIn.

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Whether you’re a CMO or an independent marketer (or both), we’re here to bring you bold perspectives, inspiring stories, and helpful advice from We Are Rosie's community of experts and thought leaders. Together, we're building a more inclusive, human future of work.

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