The Extraordinary Internship Experience

by John Culbertson
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Most everyone can recall a bad internship experience. You might have been the intern being mentored and getting a hands-on learning experience. Or perhaps you were the one doing the mentoring and managing. Either way, it left you feeling frustrated and wondering why you bothered.

These bad experiences can tarnish the view of internships for both parties. Students may become reluctant to seek other internships or turn away from their chosen career path, while companies become hesitant to offer them. In fact, fear of managing internships effectively is a major reason why companies decide to forgo the use of interns.

Yet internships are becoming increasingly popular as a way for students to complement their formal education, gain valuable

training in their chosen field and add an important component to their resume. In a 2010 Internship & Co-op Survey conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employees, 86.5% of the respondents had formal internship or coop programs.

At Cardinal Real Estate Partners, our formal internship program is very successful, and we have provided many interns with worthwhile on-the-job insights that have helped them make wise career decisions. At the same time, we have benefited from their enthusiasm and fresh perspectives. They have been good for company morale and reminded us why we entered this field to begin with. We have gone on to hire some of these interns; if we could have afforded it, we would have hired them all.

Through our extensive research and direct experience, we have found that most poor internship experiences are caused when expectations are not managed and when there is a lack of clear communications. Interns complain that the experience was not what they had hoped for and did not understand what was expected of them. Explanations were muddled, and the chain of command was unclear. All this led to a sense of dissatisfaction that made the internship of little or no value to them.

But it doesn’t have to be this way, At Cardinal, we have had a lot of success with our interns. The feedback we have received

from them tells us it is successful for them, too. We want to share what we have learned with you.

This white paper provides tips on how to prepare, establish and manage an effective internship program and how to avoid some common pitfalls and disappointments. By keeping this advice in mind, you can be sure your company will get the best possible results from its internship program. And it doesn’t require a lot of resources.

In the following pages, we will discuss these six steps:

1. Preparation

2. Recruitment

3. Interviewing

4. Establishing Expectations

5. Working with the Intern

6. Exit Interview and Evaluation

By paying attention to them, you will gain interns who provide your company with new and innovative ideas, help inject energy and spearhead projects you have putting off. And your interns will gain practical knowledge and useful experiences that will help them as they move forward in their careers.

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John Culbertson
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