Interview: Designed to learn what the intern’s general expectations are, clarify opportunities available to the intern, get a sense of the intern’s ability to work in your organization, and clarify when and how a decision will be made regarding starting date/time, if applicable. Interns usually interview at 2-3 placements so that the sponsor may decline if it does not feel like a good fit and so that the student has options as well to select the best fit.
Internship Agreement Meeting: During a meeting with the intern’s advisor in the first week of the internship, the internship agreement form is completed. This form captures expectations of the sponsor and intern, the regular weekly work schedule, projects, a progression of responsibilities, mutual goals, and any other issues relevant to the specific placement, such as confidentiality, dress code, etc.
Internship Structure and Supervision: We have found that the internships that work best are those that balance structured and unstructured time for an intern. Depending on the nature of the internship, you may find yourself providing direct instruction, making orientation or training manuals available, assigning a variety of tasks or projects, arranging for the intern to attend board, staff, or committee meetings, and/or arranging for the intern to spend time observing/assisting others in the agency. We ask sponsors and supervisors to look for projects that increase the intern’s level of responsibility as the internship progresses, based upon the intern's reliability and prior performance. In some situations, it may be desirable to share the responsibility of daily supervision. After the first few days, we do not expect that someone needs to supervise an intern for the majority of their weekly hours.
Weekly Meetings: The sponsor and intern should have a set weekly meeting to discuss the progress of the internship placement from day-to-day tasks to general feelings about the placement. The length of these meetings may vary, but it is important that they happen regularly.
Communication with the Intern’s Advisor: Throughout the internship, the intern’s Dynamy advisor will contact the sponsor via phone or email and visit the internship site as necessary. If you have any questions for the advisor, feel free to contact him/her at Dynamy.
Issues regarding an Internship: If either an intern or sponsor deems an internship to be unsatisfactory, there may come a time when a placement needs to be terminated. Before this occurs, however, we ask that all efforts be made on the part of the intern, advisor, and sponsor to make the situation workable. Also, Dynamy asks that the intern be given a formal final warning in a meeting, when possible, if performance becomes a serious issue during the placement. If, despite all these efforts, an internship must be terminated, we ask that this occur in a final meeting with the Dynamy advisor present, if possible.
Internship Evaluation Meeting: In the final week of the internship, a face-to-face meeting with the sponsor, intern and the Dynamy advisor takes place to complete a final evaluation. These final meetings give an intern a better understanding concerning his/her performance and give the sponsor some feedback on the supervision and general success of the internship from the intern’s point of view. When other co-workers have been integral to the internship experience, we also recommend that they contribute to the evaluation and meeting when possible. There is also a brief sponsor evaluation form, which the intern keeps in his/her portfolio as a record of each of his/her sponsor’s perspective. Finally, interns may find it desirable to obtain written recommendations from their sponsors at the conclusion of a successful internship, either for use in the college application process or a related endeavor. We ask that sponsors assist interns in this regard, if they feel that it is appropriate.
Time Sheets: In order for the intern to take the internship seriously, we put special emphasis on time sheets, not only as a part of a “real world” experience, but also as a tool to track the intern’s mandatory hour requirements. It is the intern’s responsibility to accurately record his/her hours worked and the activities of those hours, and to approach his/her sponsor to have it signed once per week. The intern then submits the weekly time sheet to his/her advisor at Dynamy. Over the course of a full year, these time sheets also become an impressive record of effort, collected in the student’s portfolio.
Sticking Points: A Natural Part of the Internship Cycle*
Because internships are, by definition, unfamiliar learning situations for the intern, the amount of self-directed learning/performing that is necessary is typically higher than the intern has encountered in the twelve or more years of schooling prior to Dynamy. Also, breaking off from peer groups to spend a full day working alongside adults is an unfamiliar experience for most interns. Therefore, it is natural to expect some sticking points during the course of the placement.
Generally speaking, interns will enter the orientation phase of the internship with a fairly high degree of enthusiasm regarding the prospects before them, along with some anxiety concerning their ability to fit in, how much they will like the placement, etc.
As the novelty of the placement wears off, interns often experience a stage characterized by some degree of disillusionment. A period of disenchantment or questioning should not be seen as out of the ordinary. Rather, if sponsor, advisor, or even the intern is aware that some amount of disenchantment is to be expected, all parties can work more effectively toward resolution and discussing it.
A key to helping interns work through this transition is communication. Some interns will discuss their feelings more readily than others, but using weekly supervision meetings to provide a forum for communication is an important first step. Acknowledgement of and discussion about the intern’s struggles are important. This forms the groundwork for subsequent dialogue about ways in which the intern might come to terms with the issues confronting him/her.
As an intern begins to achieve greater resolution, he or she typically enters a period of greater productivity. He or she also commonly makes significant gains in confidence and competence. The progression isn’t always smooth or clear-cut, however.
As the internship draws to a close, the intern begins to take on the responsibilities of the termination phase of the internship. Some of this will be task-oriented as the intern completes specific projects he or she has been doing, including their Independent Project. Some of this will also occur in the realm of relationships with colleagues, as an intern prepares to say good-bye. Just as there was a certain amount of anxiety associated with other phases in the internship cycle, so too are there distinct anxieties and challenges connected to this final stage of placement. Interns may experience difficulty in maintaining their focus in the final days of their placement, and guidance in time management and the establishment of priorities can be helpful to the intern seeking to bring closure to the projects s/he has been involved with. More generally, being aware of and helping the intern acknowledge his/her feelings, and providing formal feedback to the intern in a final evaluation meeting can also be important ingredients in helping the intern handle this phase of his/her internship effectively.
*Adapted from H. Frederick Sweitzer and Mary A. King’s "Stages of an Internship" in the Fall, 1994 issue of Human Service Education.