Chicago-area companies learned about the characteristics of successful internship programs at the “Enhance your Workplace with an Intern” meeting held in mid-January at the Illini Center in Chicago. Nearly 100 individuals representing 65 organizations attended the event coordinated by Business Career Services.
According to recent graduates, internships provide important insight into what a company and potential career path offer. “I learned that I enjoyed preparing tax returns,” said Wes Maher, an accountancy graduate, who completed a winter internship in tax with the accounting firm John R. Waters before accepting a full-time job with them. Gwen Niequest, a finance graduate in 2005, completed three internships as she searched for the right career fit. While completing an internship during the school year at RiverGlass, Gwen found a great match and now works for the firm and is responsible for expanding the internship program at the company.
Internships offer both students and companies opportunities for success. For companies, internships can help attract new graduates to a firm, provide additional staff for projects, address diversity goals, and create ‘campus ambassadors’ to spread a positive image of a company. For students, internships offer not only practical experience related to their education, but also provide an opportunity for students to explore career and industry opportunities.
Julie Cunningham, president of The Cunningham Group, a college relations training and advising company, says that any organization can offer a terrific internship opportunity for students. Suggestions for best practices include: give the students real work to perform, provide an orientation to the company, allow for flex-time and e-work arrangements, give access to training opportunities, and assign students to team projects. Although most companies pay interns (usually approximately 80% equivalent of entry-level salary), non-profits and small employers can find creative ways to compensate interns. For example, one organic farm in the Chicago suburbs provided a small stipend plus all the vegetables a student wanted.
Alumni are a key resource in helping the College of Business expand internship opportunities for business students. If you are interested in learning more about the internship program, how to develop your own internship or how to recruit interns, contact Business Career Services at 217.333.2840.