Spin on Traditional Student Intern Programs: Rotational Interns

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With major news outlets bemoaning the lack of job prospects for new grads, student internships are becoming even more of a priority among college students who hope to jump from diploma to career. For many undergraduates, however, where their talents lie—and certainly what they want to do with their lives—is still unclear.  Enter the rotational internship, an innovative model for the college intern that places the college student in different departments over the duration of the student intern program.

Benefits for Both College Intern Students and the Corporate Intern Program Development

The rotational college student internship proggram can be an illuminating trial period for both the college student and the employer who is expanding on or creating a student intern program. The student intern gets an idea of what careers are suited to his or her strengths by tackling tasks in, say, customer service, finance, and marketing. Not only do college student interns gain experience in varied fields—a plus for finding future work—but they also network with professionals from different departments. These connections teach them how to adapt to different work schedules, management styles, and team cultures. Besides learning a whole arsenal of new skills, this kind of flexibility makes rotational interns stand out among other more traditional paid and non-paid interns when they enter the job market.

  • Cross-training benefits the Employee and the Student Intern: A perk of the rotational internship for the any corporate intern program is that it’s impact is broad and it distributes an intern’s work across the entire company. Because the student moves into each department knowing different goals from marketing, IT, business, etc., his or her contributions have the potential to become more meaningful. Rotational interns, in other words, have a finger on the pulse of parallel agendas, and can be the bridge across company lines.
  • Interns Get Exposed to Different Departments & Jobs to Uncover Passions:  For companies that want to hire their student interns full-time in a corporate intern program, rotational internships can act as a speed-dating routine of sorts that matches the student intern up with the department that can best leverage his or her skills.  In fact, many students speak about finding their true calling during their internship, so allowing them to see more of your company increases the odds that they find their fit there.
  • Employers Attract High Quality Student Interns:  Finally, rotational student internships help attract a uniquely high quality set of intern candidates.  For many students the goal of an internship is to discover what the professional world is like, so being able to get a glimpse at multiple careers over the course of one summer is a huge selling point.  This is a reason why Morgan Stanley and other companies in highly competitive hiring industries have helped pioneer the rotational internship model.  For companies wanting to develop similar corporate internship program, visiting with other organizations with successful programs is the best place to start.

 The Nitty-Gritty of Rotational Student Internships

There are a few things to consider when instituting a rotational corporate student internship program.

  • Hiring/Onboarding/Management:  First, having a rotational corporate student intern program requires a different kind of hiring, onboarding, and management.  For example, when you draft an internship job description you should describe the responsibilities your intern will take on in each leg of the program.
  • Interviewing Questions:  During the intern interview, you need to ask questions that gauge your candidates’ comfort and aptitude for wearing different hats in the company.
  • Leadership:  Lastly, you will need to appoint an internship program coordinator to directly manage your rotational interns and help them transition from department to department as well as check in with them during each rotation.

Rotational Interns Add Value to Both the Company and the Corporate Intern Program

Rotational student internships are fertile grounds for valuable work relationships between interns and companies within its Corporate Intern PRogram. With proper planning and coordination, they can be more productive, multifaceted, and rewarding than a traditional internship. That said they are not right for all companies and are not right for all interns.  Consider working with your management team to setup a rotational internship program to help attract some fantastic student hires—you may be surprised at the way it changes your company as well.

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