The Importance of the Intern Experience
As I celebrated a successful end to my college career, I knew what I wanted as a graduation present: a job. And like many recent graduates, I soon learned the entry-level job market is not what it seems – a place where ‘entry-level’ positions can often require multiple years of experience, expert accolades and unrealistic expectations.
Early in my career search, I decided to apply for the public relations internship at FleishmanHillard in St. Louis, and I haven’t looked back since.
My Intern Experience
The FleishmanHillard internship was unlike any other professional experience I’ve had. Meaningful work, ample resources and a welcoming and inclusive workplace culture are a just few benefits that set the opportunity apart for me.
From the start, the internship became an experience that would force me to grow and learn, providing me opportunities to develop both professionally and personally. And, at FleishmanHillard, I quickly learned that interns are just as much part of the team as any other employee.
While I understand that entry-level positions vary – and sustaining a successful internship program can require a considerable amount of time, effort and investment – there are ways to ensure candidates have a successful, enjoyable experience. Here are a few simple, low-cost measures to provide a positive intern experience.
Creating Your Intern Experience
- Teach interns from the start. On the first day, ensure interns are properly onboarded and provided an understanding of their role – especially where to go for answers to their questions. At FleishmanHillard in St. Louis, outgoing intern classes welcome the incoming class by hosting orientation to ensure new team members learn from those who currently lead the projects they’ll soon take over. Outside of the first few days of the internship, new interns also attend introductory sessions that provide insight on workplace topics and best practices.
- Include interns as a part of your culture. Today, employees want to be treated holistically. That means employers must provide opportunities to fuel their teams’ growth, both professionally and personally. This is especially important for interns who have just joined the workforce. From the start of my internship, I was made aware of a variety of projects, committees, events and philanthropic initiatives that fostered company culture, allowed me to build new relationships and strengthened my personal tie to the agency.
- Foster intern connections and support systems. Starting as an intern can be an intimidating and inundating experience. Having a group of colleagues who you relate to and trust can help ease tension and simplify the onboarding process. An important element of my internship was the opportunity to befriend current and former interns. I started my internship with a “class” of interns I was encouraged to ask questions of, talk to about my experiences and projects and connect with personally.
- Build a strong manager-intern relationship. For any employee, but especially interns, a strong relationship with your manager is key. I met with my manager weekly to help answer questions, navigate new situations, identify key opportunities based on my interests and coordinate a consistent, yet maintainable workload. In these meetings, we’d also revisit my goals and progress toward achieving them. Thanks to my manager, I felt supported and confident I would continue to succeed.
Turning an Internship into a Career
The work at FleishmanHillard was appealing to me from the start of my internship (and it still is), but the real reason I enjoyed my time here was the people. I saw my colleagues supported each other, and I felt a part of that community, even as a newly hired intern.
As the end of my internship neared, it was hard to not think about the future. And I realized I didn’t want to work at FleishmanHillard just because I liked the work. I wanted to work at FleishmanHillard because I liked the work AND the people, many of whom I’d built strong relationships with while participating in the initiatives above.
Fortunately, I’m still at FleishmanHillard – now in a full-time role on the Talent + Transformation team. And, as I take on my new position, I can’t help but reflect on the important role my internship played in getting me here.
While I still have so much to learn, I have a great group surrounding me and a solid foundation to carry me forward.