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How to Ensure Both Parties Get Extreme Value Out of Your Company’s Internship Program

April 27, 2018 Ashton Adair


It’s that time of year again! You get to spend time with wonderful people, they deliver beautiful gifts of plenty and bring joy and laughter. No, I’m not talking about the Holiday season… It’s internship season! At Mojo, we love to have interns year-around if we can find fresh grads or local part-time students, but we’re double-thrilled to welcome a full class of interns for the summer.

Last year, we had a wonderful class of three interns, and it was our most successful class yet. They were sharp, provided so much value, and wildly contributed to the culture. So much so, that it hit us hard when they returned back to their regularly scheduled programs. So as we approach our next program start date, I wanted to take some time and reflect on what made it such a great class of Summer 2017 and what other ways we can prep for our 2018 interns. I thought I’d go ahead and document these musings, so why not share them with you so that you can take away any nuggets for your program?

Mojo Media Labs Summer 2017 Intern Class

Here are some reasons our Summer 2017 Internship Program (Ment-ernship Program - intern and mentor fusion) was extremely valuable to both our organization and our MBA holders (Mojo Badass Graduates).

Internship Program Strategies that Work:

We Asked Some New Questions

We receive a ton of applications for our internship program, so we started bucketing the application form by overarching skills that we know we can support (Design Intern, Digital Marketing Intern, Copywriting Intern, Sales Intern, etc.). That gives us a great jumping off point, but what we learned is to ask a few things: 1) What topics they’re passionate about in school within their majors, 2) Do they or do they not have a clear idea about what type of role or function they’d like to try upon graduation, 3) Do they have any skills they’ve picked up along the way that they want to strengthen. We realized that interns were picking the most like-minded application form to submit role wise, but asking these three questions told us if they’re absolute in their path, if they want to do more learning and exploring horizontally, or if they truly do want to specialize. These conversations really helped us know how to tailor their individual learning experiences to meet their needs, and it prevented limited learning while increasing engagement.

We Cultivated Natural Skill

Since we knew what our 2017 class wanted to focus on as individuals, that helped us customize their first few weeks. What happened then was magical, one really flourished in her primary focus, another learned the ins and outs of many functions, and the other discovered a wildly hidden talent. Each of the three had different experiences, but we were then able to assess other ways we could expand their learning and their responsibilities. We then helped them each cultivate a deeper learning in their skill set, hone a new skill, and explore new challenges. One of our Sales gals challenged herself to some marketing and social media tasks to better understand the impact of sales and marketing alignment. Another focused on how to produce client work being delivered, so she could better understand how to develop strategies for the accounts she was shadowing a Client Success Manager on. And the other, she became a digital design rockstar and didn’t realize she had a passion for graphic design. This not only ensured they got a lot out of their summer, but by being flexible with their responsibilities, and helping them identify their strengths, we were accelerating our productivity like wildfire. Everyone dreads the situation where you’re wondering how to keep interns “busy” and they’re watching the clock. The best way to avoid this is to cultivate their natural skills, even ones they haven’t discovered. Allow flexibility and shadowing, ask who wants to learn something new, and you’ll be amazed how much they’re self starters, absolute sponges, and rockstar team contributors. 

We Listened to Ideas

It takes a while to build up trust and rapport, but with quick quarterly internships, sometimes you don’t get there until the program is almost done. So to battle any fear of being forthcoming, right out the gate we tried to lead with trust. We encouraged autonomy, we stated that this would be a hands-on learning experience and not coffee runs, that they’re immediately part of the team, and that we want them to speak up and give us feedback! Once we had that chat, not one of our interns ever sat there wondering what to do. If they finished something, they were at my door asking how they can do more, learn more, and help more. They brought ideas on process improvements, and took tasks off people who were at capacity, and challenged the strategy and creativity of each of our team members by encouraging more collaboration.

We Encouraged Passion Projects

If our interns spied something that could use improvement, if they had an internal process they wanted to strengthen, or if they had Mojo Marketing and culture-related ideas, we got them with the right person, tool or learning, provided some framework, and let them run with it. Out of that, we got a fresh video for our blog, we received team training on a new tool, I got an Internship Survival Guide for this year’s onboarding, we got fresh social media content, and the list goes on. What did they get? They got our help outlining special projects on their resumes and LinkedIn profiles and content to add to their portfolios.

We Made Time for 1:1s, Workshops, and Exit Interviews

As professionals, we all want more time in the day and less talking and more productivity. But I will tell you, the number one thing I got out of last summer’s program was from implementing 1:1s, Graduation Workshops on Resume Writing and Interview Skills, and Exit Interviews. Because we had these conversations, they were so gracious and helpful in return. They helped me gain valuable feedback not just for the internship program, but for our operational processes, onboarding, culture, and recruiting. I got fresh perspectives, from objective team members for every nuance of our business. I also got so much joy out of helping these young professionals learn how to navigate the world in front of them.

How we’re prepping for the 2018 class:

We’ve Started a Project Backlog

The internship season will sneak up on you, and you may be scrambling to pull everything together in time for onboarding. This year, and this is such low hanging fruit, but I’ll say it anyways we started a project backlog. And not myself in a bubble or leadership, but I challenged our delivery team to start outlining important time-consuming projects, housekeeping tasks, parking lot tasks, and passion projects that they just don’t have the time to get to. I’ve been checking this list, and there’s nothing remedial about these tasks, and there’s nothing that can’t be taught on there either.

We’re Involving Our Team More

Our strategy and delivery teams are more than willing to spend a fraction of their time coaching our interns on how to help them achieve our project backlog than continue to let these tasks go by the wayside in hopes they’ll have hours of spare time someday soon. I now have a pipeline of meaningful work that needs to be accomplished this summer, respective coaches lined up, and I’m confident our 2018 class will learn a ton! I had a team member stop in just two days ago and say, “I can’t wait for the interns to arrive. I have so much they can help with, but I’m mostly excited to be a mentor.” Needless to say, I did backflips in my head because it’s so nice to know the team is just as excited as I am.

We’ve Got a Return Mojo Badass!

This summer, I’m so glad to say that one of our 2017 interns is returning for a round two, and is already challenging me to come up with a strategy to widen and deepen her skill set. She’s already got me thinking of programs I need to get her trained on, and how I can get her hitting the ground running on producing work. She doesn’t know it yet, but she’s already got me brainstorming ways to improve the program, and ways to coach her on how to mentor our new Mojo Makers!

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