January 17, 2022

3 Ways to Reimagine Your Internship

6 min read
By Khairunnisa Mohamedali PhD

Internship season is fast approaching. Is yours ready?

As a leader of early talent, your role includes bringing interns together, helping them enter the workplace and ensuring they flourish. Historically, this might have been done physically. Increasingly, it needs to be done virtually: for the summer of 2020, 72% of employers who held a summer internship did so virtually. This year, it may also need to be done through hybrid, with 62% of employers looking to deliver hybrid internships in 2022.

However, the shift to hybrid and remote ways of working is still new, and many organisations are still navigating the change. It’s led to a pattern of recurring challenges:

  • How to build belonging.
  • How to equip early talent with key skills when we’re all figuring out new ways of working.
  • How to build self-and organisational-awareness among early talent.
  • How to bring organisational culture to life.
  • How to be inclusive.
  • How to help early talent build networks.
  • How to support wellbeing and mental health.
  • How to design and deliver an unforgettable and high value experience that converts interns into future applicants.

Here are three ways you can reimagine your internship experience to best fill the needs of your organization and your future talent, within the COVID-fuelled constraints we all continue to navigate.

1. Think Accelerated

If you’re running a virtual internship, sustaining attention and engagement through extended periods is a notable challenge. If you’re running a hybrid internship, then your focus should be on how to make the hybrid experience equitable and fair for all. In other words, making sure the quality and value of the experience that a person working remotely has, is equal to the quality and value experienced by a person working onsite.

Accelerating your induction is a solution to both these challenges:

A. Consider short, sharp project-based placements, each with clearly articulated, achievable, and tightly defined goals. The sense of progress and achievement will be a powerful driver for performance and engagement.

B. Anchor in the key skills you want to focus on for your interns. Ensure these skills don’t just stay ‘in the classroom’, but are embedded, practised, reflected upon and celebrated throughout the internship. This will enable you to make learning the differentiator in your internship proposition—and, it’s an important draw for the current cohort of students, given 76% of Gen Z think learning is essential for a successful career.

C. For hybrid: mix, don’t merge. To ensure learning is accelerated, mix up the components of your internship programme you deliver virtually and in-person. Each component should be either 100% in-person of 100% virtual. If you merge modes during the same event, you’ll likely create uneven experiences across your cohort—as you can read here, 90% of remote respondents from hybrid events, where some participants attended in person and others remotely, felt separate from the ‘in-crowd’.

For more internship design tips, read our Internships Toolkit:

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