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The Busy Bees – Creating A Sustainable Internship Program For Small To Midsized Businesses

Posted by Carolyn Thompson on Jul 21, 2011 in Career Path

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So many flowers and so little time! Your small to midsized hive needs an extra set of honey bee hands for a couple of months and to cover for staff while they are out on summer vacations. There is a lot of honey needing to be made!

Students are a great resource for quick minds eager to learn. They are often up to date on the latest technology, are up and comers in the industry, and are a terrific way to screen potential employees once they are ready to start their careers.

Many colleges and universities require their students to graduate with at least one completed internship under their belts. This gives the students hands-on and practical work experience directly related to their career goals or field of interest. Employers who wish to take advantage of this pool of young talent should create a program which emphasizes professional development as well as provides constructive evaluation of the student’s performance including feedback on the program itself.

Internships are most often considered during the summer months when students will have more time to devote to their internship schedule, but internships can be offered throughout the year. School credit or pay can be offered at the company’s discretion. If the company wishes to offer school credit, they must meet the school’s requirements and submit an application to the school. This summer is a great time to think about starting a 4 to 8 week program for next summer depending on your business’ needs.

To create a sustainable internship program, you must first identify:
• Learning objectives.
• The tasks and responsibilities of the intern(s).
• Total compensation (paid, school credit, stipend, etc.).
• Supervisors/mentors who will guide the intern(s).
• People and concepts the intern(s) will encounter during their internship.
• Schedule of events not directly related to the tasks required of the intern(s) such as attending meetings, conferences, training, etc.
• Qualifications to perform certain tasks (must have(s)) which can be included in the job description
• Training and evaluation.
• Duration of internship (may be determined by whether it is paid or unpaid)
• How you will solicit interns (through the school website, various online internship databases, on the company website, word of mouth, etc.)

A successful internship program requires time and effort on the part of the supervisors. Drafting basic job descriptions as well as a tight, but flexible, schedule for the interns to follow is essential preparation as well as making sure that workspaces and necessary supplies have been arranged for.

5 steps to a successful program:
1. Prepare answers and materials for all of the above points so the internship period runs smoothly.
2. Orient and train the interns in your company’s business and include them in meetings with exposure to all levels of the company.
3. Utilize their skills by having them perform tasks that will challenge and educate with hands on experience.
4. Mentor– with opportunities for them to network and ask questions to benefit from others’ experience as well as shadow employees performing tasks that interns would not be permitted to complete. Research-based tasks are beneficial as well.
5. Evaluate their performance and success with required activities in the program and have them evaluate the program during and after with open communication. Follow up with the school if applicable.

Research your local colleges and universities and reach out to the deans about their internship requirements. No business is too small to have a formalized internship program. The University of Michigan’s Samuel Zell & Robert H. Lurie Institute is an entrepreneurial studies program that could benefit from an internship at your startup company. Even if you are a small company you may find someone that ends up being a great long term hire. No company is too small!

Build it and they will come…and don’t forget to have fun! Interns can breathe new life into an organization with their enthusiasm. Go make some honey!

Special thanks to the recruiting department at Dixon Hughes Goodman for being a model program and the Michigan State University’s excellent website for tips on how to create a great internship program at your business.

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The Flock – Your Employee’s First Day

Posted by Carolyn Thompson on Jan 28, 2010 in Job Search

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In a previous post, I noted some tips on how to be prepared for your first day by comparing it to building a nest. Building the “nest” is up to the employee to prepare for, but as the employer, you have preparation of your own to welcome the new member of the flock. The smoother the transition for your new employee, the faster they will be able to contribute their talents.

Your new employee is very excited about their new position and anxious to make a good impression. Here are some common sense things that will make that transition easier for them into their new company.

A phone call the week before they start is a great personal touch, and goes a long way toward making a new employee feel welcome. Let them know what to expect, where to go and what time to arrive the first day.

Have necessary items ready before they arrive:

·         Keys, security passes, parking passes, etc. should be ready for them or the paperwork associated with them available to be filled out.

·         Payroll forms and HR paperwork should be in a package and ready to be completed if not already done prior to start date.

Have the employee’s workspace ready for work:

·         Computer set up and running, email accounts activated.

·         Ensure the phone is in place, working and a manual is handy.

·         The chair is appropriate for the space and in good condition.

·         The work area (desk, carpet, etc.) is clean and in good working order.

·         A new, current copy of the company phone directory is available (or available on-line).

·         Have a scheduled agenda for them the first day or two. Include them in meetings on projects they will be involved with, even if only as an observer.

·         Introduce them to everyone they will be working with directly. Make sure they meet the person they should go to with facilities questions (i.e.: how to work the copier, the fax, the phone, etc.).

·         Have someone in the department (manager/peer) scheduled to take them to lunch on the first day. There is nothing more uncomfortable than going to a new company and not knowing where to go for lunch the first day, and not being invited to go with others. A little pre-planning can make the new employee feel welcome and a part of the group.

Keep the lines of communication open, and remember that they will have a lot of questions. Be approachable and available to them. Order their business cards and other personal stationary items as needed so they can get to work and be a productive, contributing member of your group as soon as possible.

Once the transition is complete, they will be able to fly uniformly with the rest of the flock and be eager to welcome new employees into the company family.

Discussed extensively in Ten Steps to Finding the Perfect Job as well as available in a recorded webinar presented by Carolyn Thompson at


Carolyn Thompson


Lindsay Sellner

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The Nest – Your First Day At A New Job

Posted by Carolyn Thompson on Jan 28, 2010 in Building Confidence, Career Path

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Winter is still going strong in the early months of the year, but maybe the new year has brought some good news and you are about to start a new job!

When birds create the foundations for a new stage in their lives, they take a lot of time to prepare. You may not need one or two weeks to gather the materials, but don’t underestimate! Nests keep the bird’s most precious possession safe: their eggs. For the time the bird lays and incubates its eggs and raises its young, the nest has to be solid and strong. The foundation for a new job has to be equally strong and you want to be careful to make the best first impression at the start!  

Leave home early in order to be on time. Factor in an extra 15 minutes in case you run into a traffic jam.

Take proper identification with you to fill out your new employee paperwork (if you have not already done so). This could include your passport, a driver’s license, social security card, green card or other authorization required to legally work in the US. Know what your exemptions are for tax purposes, and take emergency contact phone numbers for your file. Many companies offer direct salary deposit, and you can expedite that process by bringing a voided check or deposit slip with you to attach to the appropriate forms. If you need help filling out your forms, ask! Correctly filling out your new hire forms the first time will save you time and trouble later.

Dress professionally and appropriately for the company you are working for. (When in doubt, dress UP…not down.) Make sure your shoes are shined, your clothes are neat and pressed and that you don’t over-accessorize.

Smile, introduce yourself and treat everyone with respect. Saying please and thank you are the easiest ways to make people comfortable quickly.

Make sure you have some cash in case you need it. Trying to find a bank or a cash machine in a new neighborhood may not be the easiest thing on your first day.

You will be presented with a lot of new information the first few days. It will take time for it all to sink in. Don’t be afraid to ask questions…and be sure to take good notes. If you are invited to meetings to observe or participate, be careful not to jump in too quickly, but don’t be afraid to share comments and ideas if you are asked to.

Change is always difficult no matter how much you prepare. Realize that feelings of nervousness are expected and very common no matter your career level. You will likely miss your old, familiar surroundings. Rest assured, in a few days time, your new environment will become more comfortable and familiar to you. You will settle into your new routine, develop new friendships at your new company and still have the good relationships you developed at your former one.

This is your chance to start from scratch and build your solid nest from experience and preparation. First impressions are not only important but lasting. Make sure you do everything you can to set the tone you want to carry through this important step in your career. Make a comfortable nest for yourself by properly preparing for the first day, and weeks and that strong foundation will help you settle into your new job.



For more job search tips, please visit where you can find resources on interviewing, resume writing, and making a great first impression! Tips for your first day can also be found in the book Ten Steps to Finding the Perfect Job.

Carolyn Thompson


Lindsay Sellner


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