This summer I was fortunate enough to land an eight-week internship as a Policy Assistant at the CBI. I was given the opportunity to actively contribute to the CBI’s Seize the Moment strategy, with my work culminating in a 10-page report on how improving the conditions of industrial clusters could drive innovation and exporting in business.
I found the experience hugely beneficial, especially as an undergraduate student with career aspirations across the fields of policy and business. So here’s my take on why I think it worked – and what businesses should consider to find similar success:
- Understand what the intern wants to get out of the experience and align that with what you want them to accomplish. That way you’ll maximise both the skills development of the intern and the overall success of the experience.
One of the things that stood out for me during my internship with the CBI was the fact that whilst I was made aware of what colleagues hoped to get out of me, I was also given a degree of autonomy over the goals that I was set. In my first few meetings with colleagues, I was afforded the opportunity to say which specific tasks I wanted to undertake, meeting opportunities I wanted to attend (where possible), and skills I wanted to develop. Voicing my ambitions allowed me to get more actively involved and gain exposure to the CBI’s engagement with its members.
Having initial discussions with interns to establish goals and targets from the outset can help motivate the intern, encourage them to be more proactive and maximise the overall learning experience. It does mean firms should have a good idea of potential skills, tasks, and achievements they would like to see the intern achieve so these discussions can take place.
- A regular point of contact is key to supporting the personal development of the intern, especially if there’s still an element of remote working involved.
Weekly 1-1 check-ins made all the difference in making sure that I was on track with my project. They gave me the chance to ask any questions about meeting discussions and report findings, and to clarify any points of confusion I had. It helped to make sure that I was able to produce the quality of work I hoped to produce. And at the end of the experience, having tangible work an intern can be proud of provides longer term benefits for all involved.
- Allowing interns to get acquainted with different branches of the organisation (not just the area they have been assigned to) can help them to find their feet quicker, boost collaboration and ultimately improve the quality of work they deliver.
This is another aspect of my internship experience that made the CBI stand out for me, especially as the work I was doing crossed different policy areas.
I spent the first couple of weeks having scheduled inductions with colleagues across various policy areas and regional offices. This allowed me to broaden my understanding of how the organisation functions and consider areas of my work that I wouldn’t have thought about before. It also made it easier to approach colleagues with specific questions that I had about my work, as I knew where to go and who to ask for help.
- Hybrid working will enhance the intern’s experience of life at the firm.
I carried out a fair amount of my work remotely, because of the timing involved – but face-to-face time with colleagues brought it all to life.
Where possible, giving your intern a taste of life in the office and allowing them the space and time to meet colleagues out of office hours not only makes the experience more exciting, but also showcases the social aspects of the organisation. Where internships are carried out remotely, having in-person meetings and/or events scheduled during and outside of office hours can create an experience beyond the working hours of 9-5 that allows interns to feel more comfortable and confident working alongside colleagues.
With connections being made in both formal and informal settings, this projects your organisation as an appealing place to work, making it more likely to attract young talent.
- Having a mid-way review will ensure the internship is working.
If you’ve made the effort to set goals at the start of the internship, a mid-way review is a good way to help achieving them. If the intern is struggling, it’s an opportunity to re-adjust workload so they remain motivated. If they’re exceeding expectations, it’s a chance to set new goals to maximise their growth potential and enhance their skills development.
I found having a moment to reflect on the achievements that had been made so far was a real confidence boost and had a positive impact on my work.