First and foremost, erase any preconceived notions of what an intern should do. Be prepared to offer interns a diverse, real-world experience.
The first step is the application process. Look at it as a recruitment tool. The best way to cultivate the next generation of talent is through treating the internship program as an ongoing job interview where all of the candidates are potential employees. Students look to internships as a way to progress their careers. Treating the program as a professional stepping stone can maximize its potential.
Before selecting interns, identify your firm's business goals and speak to leaders in each practice area to determine their needs. In addition, make sure interns know they are accountable not just to their team, but to the entire agency. This responsibility gives them a greater sense of importance within the firm and makes them feel like part of the team.
Finally, ensure that senior management is engaged in the program. If these leaders are accessible and visible to interns, the program's value will inherently rise.
Suzanne Lyons is the chair lead of the 2007 summer intern program at Ketchum.
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