A positive work environment, flexible hours and good pay. That’s what the newest entrants in today’s job market are seeking, according to a Glassdoor report on where Gen Z’ers want to work. With the next generation of talent interning as they prepare to enter the workforce, a well-run program is an opportunity to create a valuable experience for both the company and potential employee.
Taking coffee orders and running Twitter accounts, for barely minimum wage, don’t cut it anymore. As the demand for skilled talent grows, so do students’ expectations for quantifiable work. They want internships with a purpose.
A truly successful program will be mutually beneficial for the organization and the intern. Not only are you helping to hone their skills and knowledge, but also creating brand ambassadors and building a future talent pipeline.
Pillars of a Successful Program
There are three keys to a successful internship program: hire based on cultural fit; pair interns with good coaches who foster development; and get interns engaged and connected to experts in their field.
1. Cultural fit matters. While most internships only last a few months, interns will be making real contributions to your business during that time. Just like any full-time hire, it’s important your interns are fit to be good stewards for your company’s cultural principles. By incorporating “fit” into the screening process, you not only safeguard company culture, but you also help set the intern up for success in the short-term and for potential full-time opportunities following their internship.
2. Pair interns with good coaches. Make sure your interns are supported by managers who are prepared to coach and develop them when they arrive. Pairing interns with managers who are enthusiastic, provide regular constructive feedback, and take a personal interest in guiding the intern’s experience is essential for sustaining a purposeful program. While your interns may not remember all the projects they worked on while with your company, they will most likely remember feeling invested in and cared for while there.
3. Get interns engaged and connected. From their assignments to networking to volunteering in the community, taking the intern experience from menial to meaningful will pay dividends across the board. Making sure your hiring managers entrust interns with important business project deliverables and timelines is integral to an enriching experience. Outside your interns’ day-to-day responsibilities, work to host social outings, create volunteer opportunities and provide forums for interns to meet leaders in the organization. These activities help impress the importance of getting outside their comfort zone, striking up face-to-face conversation, and making connections; all essentials for actively navigating their career.
Practicing What We Preach
At Panasonic, we’ve put these pillars into practice. We are proud of our diverse group of talented interns and work to ensure they’re getting the most out of their internships, in both business experiences and networking opportunities.
Our program is open to students at all levels of higher education, from different backgrounds, majors and degrees. We also hire year-round, not just in the summer. This year, Panasonic has hired over 100 interns, with more than 70 at our North American headquarters in Newark, New Jersey, and nearly 20 at the lithium-ion Gigafactory in Reno, Nevada.
We encourage interns to raise their hands and get involved in projects they are interested in, whether marketing, engineering, accounting or other functions. From developing strategies and plans, creating content, to leading brainstorm sessions, we work to provide a foundation above and beyond menial tasks while helping them understand what it’s like working in the technology industry.
Networking can take many forms – from weekly social gatherings to local community service projects, and perhaps most importantly an intern development series. And the importance of networking has been proven – 93% of student interns in a 2017 survey said an internship that helped them make connections would be most valuable. Through a series of lunch-and-learns, interns also have the opportunity to meet with senior executives whom they may not typically work with, up to and including the CEO.
Mary Battle, who leads Panasonic’s employer brand and campus programs, knows how important networking can be—it’s how she started her career. A decade ago, Mary was a student at Rutgers University when she landed an internship that grew into her first job. In professional circles, she worked to make connections with hiring managers here at Panasonic, and it paid off. Today, Mary uses her experience to ensure Panasonic’s interns are maximizing every opportunity they have.
Shaping the Next Generation
An internship can shape a person’s entire career. As interns learn, they gain the skills, knowledge and experiences that they will draw from to become future leaders. At Panasonic, we know we are shaping the next generation of talent and equipping them with the tools to succeed, which should be the ultimate goal of every intern program.
Tina Slattery is director of talent acquisition for Panasonic.