I recently got a note from a friend of a former intern who was looking for an internship with my firm. The note caused me to think back on the many many interns I’ve had over the years and think about what makes a successful intern and intern program.
I also counted on my fingers, I’ve had more than 100 interns work with me over the last 20+ years. I’m still in contact with a number of them. Some of them still work for some of my former employers, hired after they got out of school. I’ve been invited to weddings, graduations, gotten baby pictures and, in general, enjoy a great relationship with most of the “kids” who worked for me. Admittedly, some I never hear from again. Others never rise above the noise, don’t distinguish themselves and disappear from my view screen but if I run into them at some future point, I find they have been successful.
A few years ago I got into an all too public tiff with the then head of the school of communications at one of the local universities. (This is not the current head who seems like a good guy.) He rather publicly berated me for “not allowing students to focus on their education during college” by “enticing them” with internships. I admit I started the tussle by questioning him on his plans for the school’s internship program.
I had not had any interns from his school but instead enjoyed a long relationship with a competing school because of their renowned co-op program. (The program placed students with area employers for 6 months at a time, full-time.) It was a terrific program and often students rejoined my teams after their 6 months at school. The overall program kept them in school for 5 years, instead of 4 but they ended up with impressive resumes and often job offers. I meanwhile had great teams of junior staffers who helped support a number of projects while they learned.
So, you can see my bias — experience is good.
But I can also see his point of view — that the college years could potentially be a time of uninterrupted educational pursuit. I just don’t agree with it. I hire employees based on enthusiasm and experience, and my own experience is that, generally, people who built up their resumes during college are the hardest workers and do the better job.
What do you think? Best interns? Best internships? Big companies? Small? Work with one department, or many? What was your best internship? Your best intern? How many internships lead to permanent jobs?