From the Training Top 125 Best Practices e-newsletter
If done right, an effective internship benefits both interns and the organization sponsoring them. This is the guiding principle behind inVentiv Heath Inc.'s marketing and advertising paid summer internship program. "Not only are interns exposed to all facets of the company, they're asked to assume substantive team roles and produce real work product for our clients," says inVentiv Heath Chief Learning Officer Peter Marchesini.
The company's 10-week summer internship program is open to incoming Miami University seniors who are majoring in business, communications, marketing, or graphic design. Applicants submit a detailed application package that includes a cover letter, transcripts, a professor's letter of recommendation, and a personal essay explaining why he or she would make an outstanding marketing and advertising intern.
As the program's chief administrator, Becky Cisler closely monitors interns' overall experience in the program by assigning mentors to each intern and tracking homework assignments over time. "The mentors are responsible for providing day-to-day guidance as it relates to the agency work interns are asked to perform," says Cisler. Assignments requiring interns to research and write reports about inVentiv Heath's suite of marketing services, however, are coordinated by Cisler. "It's a busy 10 weeks and that's the point," she adds. "While it's true we're throwing them into the deep end from day one, we're also providing the necessary support to ensure they swim and don't sink."
Interested in developing a similar summer internship program? Marchesini and Cisler point to the following tips:
- Provide interns with a view of your whole company. During the program, interns are asked to learn as much about the company, its practice areas, and its clients as they can and then write it all up for Cisler to review. "By immersing them in the day-to-day details of agency work—including client meetings—interns quickly develop a solid foundation of knowledge about the company, who we are, and what we do," says Cisler. To aid interns in developing the fullest possible appreciation of the company's range of capabilities, they also meet with a variety of senior executives and other team members across various company units during their internship. "Through these meetings, they learn more about the company and also have the chance to seek the input of senior-level management on a range of matters—from career advice to industry insights."
- Match interns with mentors. "Mentoring relationships are a great developmental opportunity for interns and mentors alike," says Marchesini. "Because interns actively participate in all agency work, they are usually hungry for the input of an experienced, knowledgeable mentor." At the same time, volunteer mentors are eager for the opportunity to offer guidance and supervisory support to interns as a means of developing their own managerial skills. "That dynamic injects a great deal of focus and enthusiasm into the mentor-intern relationship," says Marchesini.
- Assign real work. In addition to keeping daily journals, writing research reports, and delivering a capstone presentation at the end of the summer that chronicles their internship experience, interns also assume integral roles on the agency teams and perform real work for the firm's clients. "If you believe people learn by doing," notes Cisler, "our program is all about getting interns doing as much as possible so they'll learn that much more."
inVentiv Heath Inc. is a marketing and advertising agency based in Somerset, NJ, that caters to clients in the health-care sector. In 2009, the company placed 39th on Training magazine's Top 125 list, an annual ranking of organizations that excel at human capital development.