OpenIDEO is an open innovation platform. Join our global community to solve big challenges for social good. Sign Up / Login or Learn more

Meaningful Internships

Everyone wins if companies take the time and energy to create a meaningful internship structure. The intern gains valuable experience and knowledge and the company would likely see a high return on investment.

Photo of Mira Rao
9 7

Written by

Too many companies see their young interns as coffee-fetchers and document filers.  Young people are eager to experience a wide variety of work projects and opportunities.  Too often, internships are a waste of time and the intern is not exposed to any high-level projects, meeting, or decisions.  With the increased competitiveness of the job market, young people need to focus on the activities that will have the greatest effect.  

Their skills (even if just an open mind and an enthusiasm to learn) go un-noticed and un-utilized.

Everyone wins when a company has a well structured and meaningful internship.  Interns undoubtedly learn more and feel more invested with the company. Companies that incorporate structured training and professional development into their internship programs would likely see a high return on investment.  Companies could start treating interns like fellows, and involve them directly in their own development.  Or simply expose the intern to the various departments and operations involved in the business.

How can we involve private companies in creating meaningful internships, and what would those internships look like?  How can this shift be supported or incentivized?

9 comments

Join the conversation:

Comment
Spam
Photo of DeletedUser

DeletedUser

Schools and companies are equally to blame when it comes to the depreciation of the internship relationship.

For companies, "unpaid internships" are too often an excuse to extract cheap labor from a young workforce under the guise of "experience" and "resume building", without. Many companies will wantonly sever the engagement at the end of a project or summer season even after using the promise of potential placement to draw interns in to begin with.

University programs are quick to push students to engage in these types of relationships. Job fairs and message boards are used to advertise to and harvest students for cheap labor. Many visual communications and graphic design programs even require students to locate an unpaid, dead-end internship "for college credit", meaning the student is then PAYING THE COLLEGE to work for free.

Spam
Photo of DeletedUser

DeletedUser

That cartoon is just too close to the truth when it comes to most internships, unfortunately. The whole idea behind internships is to provide a mentoring experience, when all too often this translates into grunt work. I love this idea - let's get back to the spirit of internships and make it time well spent for both parties.

Spam
Photo of DeletedUser

DeletedUser

My internship was everything for me. I had the chance to work for a big and well known company in a cubicle or an abstract company that paid less.

I picked the abstract company and they pushed me beyond belief. The important thing though, the skills I learned in that job have been the actual practical skills that I use in the workforce.

Compared to a business degree, which so far has taught me VERY few applicable things.

Surprisingly the most important thing I learned from this company is that relationships matter in the workplace. Just doing excellent work is good but not enough. There is a real human element in every work place.

Spam
Photo of Paul Reader

"There is a real human element in every workplace"
How absolutely true Lyden - it would be wonderful if we could somehow establish recognition of this as a measure of success.

Spam
Photo of Meena Kadri

I wonder if a toolkit for companies which contains advice, checklists, etc on what makes a good internship might help? Or an online platform where internees can rate their internships? Looking forward to what folks come up with for the Concepting phase starting this week!

Spam
Photo of Mira Rao

I love that idea: help companies launch their revamped internship program (i.e. Internship-in-a-box)

Spam
Photo of Meena Kadri

Oooo – now you're cooking! Sounds fab – and maybe there could be one for internees *and* interners? I do think that students have stuff to think about in this equation as well. In fact I wrote a bit of advice for both a while back for Kyoorius Magazine: Shipping Talent – http://issuu.com/kyooriusmag/docs/kyooriusmag_06?mode=window&pageNumber=1 (page 101) Hoping to see more of Internship-in-a-Box on our Concepting phase.

Spam
Photo of Paul Reader

Great focus on transition between inspiration and concepting.
Looking forward to discussion on this one in a few days.

Spam
Photo of DeletedUser

DeletedUser

I interned for a .com and they charged us with developing a marketing campaign that targeted young women(18-24). The hardest part of this was the women in the segment did not have a graphics card good enough to run the platform. It was a pretty challenging situation and we were included in really high level meetings.

I learned from this that CEO's, ours happened to be a McKinsey Wiffenpoof type, was really just a normal nerdy guy. Our intern adviser was very good at making sure we had meeting across the teams from engineering and R&D to marketing and business development. The engineers also taught us how to play Texas Hold'em, ping pong, Go, and Settlers of Catan. While this sounds silly it is really a big part of .com culture.