Starting an internship at any organization is often intimidating. Interns step into a foreign company culture, with policies and norms that are not taught in the college classroom. Preparation for full time employment happens in the workplace through well-rounded and mutually beneficial internship programs. It is the responsibility of the organization to create an enriching onboarding experience that provides interns with expectations and goals that prepare them for the months ahead.
Throughout the past few years I’ve had the opportunity to hold a variety of internship positions. I’ve interned at a nonprofit organization, an innovative start-up, a marketing agency, and now at iCIMS. For me, these experiences were largely categorized by the way I was onboarded into the organization. Each onboarding process, or lack of, was a reflection on the quality of the internship. I found that if the organization was willing to actively invest their time and resources into getting me up to speed on company policies, I left the internship feeling fulfilled. Formal training made me feel like an actual employee of the company, instead of a disposable college student.
You may think an informal process is the best way to get an intern immersed in your organization because it forces them to jump right it on their first day. Some may call this the sink or swim approach. Personally, I call this lazy. Interns look to an organization to learn things. They don’t necessarily have the skills to swim right away. I have found that a formal onboarding process was the easiest and most rewarding way to begin an internship.
I was interested in iCIMS long before I was even hired as a Customer Marketing Intern. Once I was connected with the organization, I received numerous personalized emails from the human resources department informing me about open positions at the company and upcoming events. These interactions kept me engaged and eager to learn more about the organization. Even the interview process was unique. I had the opportunity to meet with a variety of employees in the marketing department. It seemed like they were willing to work hard to find the best candidate for the position. These initial interactions laid the groundwork for the month to follow.
As I prepared for my first day at ICIMS I did not feel as if I was going in blindly. I had no idea what to expect at my previous internships. But here I was directed to a New Hire Onboarding Portal upon accepting my new position. Through the Portal I was able to complete my W4 and I-9 forms from the comfort of home. I had a chance to read through the company handbook, which answered questions that I had about the dress code and parking. The fully branded content got me acclimated to Ike and to the iCIMS culture that I was soon going to be a part of.
It was so refreshing to walk in to iCIMS the morning of my first day and have a computer and desk set up, just for me. I’ve had experiences where the IT department was scrambling to set up my laptop or create my email address as I waited patiently. This is a sign of poor communication and also a breakdown in task management which could have been avoided by an automated onboarding process.
My first few weeks at iCIMS were jam packed with meetings, power points, and trainings. It was exciting to learn about the different areas of the organization. These weeks were facilitated by a detailed schedule that described what I’d be doing and when and where I would be doing it. Each session was necessary to catching me up to speed on all things iCIMS. Quickly I began taking on my own responsibilities and became a contributing member of the Customer Marketing team. In my pervious internships I rarely got to a point where I felt like I was an asset. I believe this is because other organizations neglect to take the time to prepare an onboarding process for their interns. By cutting corners in the initial stages of an internship they ultimately miss out on a chance to reap the benefits of a productive and happy intern.
By no means am I an expert on internships. I simply wanted to share my various onboarding experiences with you. If you’re considering creating an internship program at your organization remember to spend time establishing your onboarding process. Interns may not be full time employees, but the impressions you make on them will last long after the internship is over.