training periods / internship: what for? Some recommendations to ensure they are successful

  An internship is an experience that involves 3 partners: the student, the company (*) and the university. The implication of all 3 is necessary to ensure the success of the training period / internship so that everyone gets the maximum out of it. Here are some considerations on the benefits of internships and some recommendations to ensure they are successful.

A- Why should a company open its doors to trainees?

  • Opportunity to speed projects up.

  • Opportunity to explore more options in a project.

  • Opportunity to evaluate potential candidates for future recruitment.

  • Opportunity to tap into intelligent low cost resources.

  • Opportunity to access and use scientific skills that are not available in the company (especially for SMEs).

  • By opening its doors to the academic world, the company contributes to educate students and teachers on their needs, and thereby contributes to bring the academic and the professional worlds closer to each other.

  • Promotion of the company towards students (potential future new hires) and / or the academic world.

  • Opportunity to get a fresh and neutral perspective from someone who is genuinely interested in the project that he is given.

B- for the student:

  • Opportunity to discover the professional world.

  • Exposure to the interdependence of fields in the business world.

  • Opportunity to test/ discover a job / business sector before having to chose in which direction to steer your career.

  • Opportunity to be evaluated for a potential future position and to evaluate a potential employer.

  • Opportunity to get a feedback and an additional experience that will help better position yourself upon your arrival on the job market.

  • Opportunity to get exposed to result oriented approaches and to the notions of generation of added value.

  • Exposure to the interdependence of people in the professional world.

  • Possibility to benefit from a fresh perspective on his / her skills combining the visions of the professional and academic worlds.

C-For the university:

  • Opportunity to prepare the students better for the professional world by confronting them with concrete experiences.

  • Opportunity to validate the adequacy between what is taught to students and the needs of the business community. And to get a feedback on their priorities and orientations.

  • Opportunity to build relationships with SMEs, some of which may become long term relationships and lead to joint projects.

  • Opportunity to promote within the business community the achievements of the university and its expertise.

  • Opportunity to expose students to the possibility to implement what they learned.

  • The internship must be seen as an integral part of the training program given to students: it's a unique opportunity to complement what is brought to the students by their professors.

  • Opportunity to show to the business world the specificity of their trainings and promote them towards the business community that is not always aware of the availability of specializations that meet their needs.


D-For the company, how to provide good internships?

  • First and above all: stay true! You welcome a resource that must perform as a graduate would do and at the same time you offer him /her the opportunity to discover the real world. The best you could do for his / her own sake is to confront him / her with this reality as he / she will live it once he / she will leave university!

  • Choose topics with real value for the company: the work the intern produces must be useful! Otherwise there is a risk he / she will not get the right attention within the company and that he / she lacks motivation. And anyway it's a waste of your time!! See the intern as an employee that must be productive.

  • Choose projects or parts of projects that allow to deliver results or conclusions or that contribute to progress towards them.

  • Choose subjects that will make the trainee use his / her critical and analytical skills.

  • Choose topics that challenge the intern! They are capable of analysis and it's more exciting for them to overcome challenges than perform basic tasks and missions!

  • Select the student as you would with a recruit: in this way you ensure he / she has the skills and ability to achieve the goal you have selected for him / her.

  • Give the trainee the same working environment as for your employees, and make sure he / she gets upon arrival all what he / she needs to work effectively (office, computer, phone ...).

  • Provide guidance for your student: he / she doesn't need a baby sitter, but he / she will need someone with whom he / she can discuss about options or the difficulties he / she faces and possible solutions.

  • Keep in mind that the internship contributes to the image of your company! Of course the intern will remember how his/ her internship went, and he / she will speak about it to colleagues, friends, family and some of his / her teachers!

E-As a student, how to make sure your internship is successful?

  • Consider yourself as an employee! Follow the same rules (work hours, reporting, dress code, etc. ...).

  • Make sure you understand what is expected from you. Ask questions if necessary, and don't get started till you are sure you know where you're going!

  • Make sure you understand the fit of your project within the broader perspective: in most cases your mission is not just to deliver a project, but to deliver a contribution to a broader objective of which your project is one of the components. Understanding this perspective will expose you in most cases to other aspects of the project and other fields such as the marketing needs, the profitability, the competitive positioning, or the lead time requirements. This will help you in progressing your project.

  • Approach the project in terms of results to be achieved or in terms of outcome rather than as a sequence of tasks to achieve.

  • Establish a planning of the project right from the start, list the tasks that you plan to accomplish, make sure you understand the time it takes to deliver them, allow some room for surprises and ensure with your mentor the overall planning is OK. Once this is done, follow up the planning and always treat any changes!

  • Accept surprises: they are a fact and part of the professional life! Your job is to anticipate them as much as possible. And make sure you learn to deal with them and to minimize their impact!

  • Whether you like it or not, the internship is a way to promote yourself and make yourself known: make sure you sure you do the right things so that they remember from you what you would like them to remember!

  • Your tutor is your customer. He has expectations. But remember, he is also there to help you succeed: don't hesitate to ask for his help!

  • When you face problems or need to make important decisions, talk about it with your supervisor or colleagues. But first, analyze the situation in depth, make your mind up about what you would decide or do if you were on your own, and present the solution you recommend explaining the reasons that led you there.

  • Before the start of the internship, be an active actor in defining the project you will work on. You know your strengths, your weaknesses or your desires. By sharing them at this stage, you could help the company assign to you a project or design it in a way that helps you be more efficient.

  • Be yourself! A company has welcomed you and you owe her a "production". But you're also there to discover how you behave in a professional environment, how you interact with colleagues and superiors, how you manage the difficulties … Be yourself and take a step back to get the most out of this experience and identify what could be transferable to future jobs, or what could help you go towards positions that suit best your personality.

* "Company" may be replaced by "Institution"


November 2009

Nady Bilani