Interns' Best Advice for Management

Published: Nov 04, 2021

This past summer, Firsthand surveyed more than 11,400 current and former interns from 140 internship programs—a survey from which we derived our 100 Best Internships ranking. During the survey, we asked interns to rate their internship experiences in a variety of areas, including career development, compensation, full-time employment prospects, interview process, quality of life, quality of assignments, and diversity. We also asked interns if they had specific “advice for management” of their internship programs—regarding what could’ve been better in their programs, what their programs could’ve done without, and how their programs could be improved going forward. What follows are the five most common pieces of advice that interns had for the management of their internship programs.

1. Offer in-person internships—if possible

Numerous interns told us that while their virtual internship experiences were meaningful, their programs would’ve likely been a lot better had they been in-person. Of course, due to Covid, in-person internships weren’t easy to hold this year, and that was something interns understood. Still, so many interns desired “more in-person events” and told us that “hopefully internships are in-person next year.”

And if virtual internships still aren’t possible come next summer, some intern recommendations include: “holding smaller group meetings so interns can get to know each other better” and “making a video touring the office to give the interns a feel of what it's like to be in the workplace.”

2. Provide better/more training opportunities

Training is a key aspect of any internship, and the interns who took our survey had mixed reviews of their training offerings: many were very pleased with the training they received, while many said training could be improved. As for improvements, one intern advises management to “spend less time on the orientation and more time on technical training,” adding, “I felt underprepared for using the software on a day-to-day basis.”

Meanwhile, another intern has this advice: “Provide more learning opportunities for the company as a whole, so interns can thoroughly understand its main message.” A third intern recommends that management holds more “bias training and defines its DEI values.” And a fourth intern wishes that “training and manager expectations could be more consistent, resulting in more equal intern experiences.”

3. Provide more useful mentorship opportunities

Like training, mentoring is a very important aspect to any internship. And while many interns praise their programs’ mentor offerings (and their mentors), many also advise that management makes some tweaks. One intern says, “I had one mentor this summer, but two might have been more beneficial so that there were multiple people to reach out to if one was busy.” Indeed, busy mentors was a common theme. “Often, I had meetings scheduled that were canceled last minute because my mentor had an urgent deadline,” one intern tells us. “I’d say maybe 10 percent of my one-on-ones (excluding meetings for specified assignments) actually happened.”

Other interns told us it was difficult to connect with their mentors due to the program being virtual and/or their mentor working in a different time zone. And others just wish there were more structure. One intern advises: “Make sure the mentorship (coach/buddy) aspect is occurring properly, maybe with more structure so the coaches and buddies are actually performing their roles.”

4. Hold more networking events

This year, numerous interns told us that they wish their programs had more events so they could get to know their fellow interns better. This lack of networking events was no doubt partially due to Covid—“It’s difficult to network and build relationships remotely,” concedes one intern—but it also seemed that, according to interns, their programs could’ve tried harder to connect them.

One intern advises: “I would incorporate more bonding events to further connect the intern cohort.” Another says, “I wish there had been more events after work to get to know everyone better.” And a third believes the events that were held could’ve been timed better, explaining, “While it’s really nice to get access to intern events after the end of the internship, it would have been nice if those could’ve been fit into the internship period.”

5. Increase pay

Although the desire for better compensation might’ve been a more common theme among financial services-related internships (like banking), there were interns in all industries and roles who told us pay could be better. One intern (not a finance intern) tells us, “I think compensation could be considered a little more depending on the project the intern has and the difficulty of the project.” Another non-finance intern says, “I think higher compensation would make the organization able to compete better for great talent.” Yet another outside-of-finance intern says, “The compensation was competitive but could’ve been slightly higher for the engineering interns.”

Meanwhile, finance interns had advice like this for management: “compensation could be better to match other firms,” “the pay is already competitive but could be increased slightly,” and, simply, “increase compensation.”

Best Advice for Interns, the Most Prestigious Internships, and More

Next week, we’ll be revealing more advice by interns who took our survey—this time, “advice to prospective interns.” So, check back here for what interns recommend to their fellow students who might be in their shoes next summer. Also next week, we’ll be revealing our Most Prestigious Internships and a handful of other Internship Rankings. Already, we’ve released our 2022 Internship Rankings for Accounting, Consulting, and Investment Banking, as well as our 100 Best Internships30 Best Internships for Diversity30 Best Internships for Training & Mentoring, Best Internships for Data Analytics, and Best Internships for Sales & Marketing. So, check back here next week for more Internship Rankings by Industry, Employment Factor, and Role!

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