Starting an Internship Programme at a Startup

internship-thumbnailIn the UK, the notion of an internship is fairly new (to me at least). It was not straight forward to set up a program, so I share a few of the key steps I have found to be useful.

The documents “Common Best Practice Code for Quality Internships” and “Internships that Work: A Guide for employers” provided useful and practical advice. Also some American universities have useful guides for employers starting an internship programme.

Initially, I had two primary concerns about starting internships; firstly the loss of productivity of mentors involved in supervising interns, and secondly, the cost in terms of time in the recruitment process.

To reduce the burden on the mentor, I put together a structured training plan, with a high-level syllabus and detailed exercises. That certainly requires some effort at the start, however, just like starting a flywheel, once started it is easy to keep going and improve. The training plan is continuously updated and refined based on feedback from mentor and intern, and has generally been a very worthwhile effort.

To help in the recruitment process a useful website is the government sponsored – Graduate Talent Pool. Local universities also have careers service websites which are free and suitable for advertising internships, for example, Imperial College London – “JobsLive” and University College London – “JobsOnline”. I did encounter some companies who claimed to assist in the intern recruitment process, but it was difficult to see what real value they added.

One small point I felt was important was the preparation for the intern’s first day. As with many things in life, first impressions count, and I am conscious that the intern is judging the company just as much as the company is judging the intern. It is all too easy to cause a bad first impression by overlooking very simple tasks such as ensuring a desk and computer are available on day one. The internship training plan contains a checklist of tasks to be completed by the mentor before the intern arrives.

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