January 21, 2022 - 10:55 am

How to Create a Valuable Internship

By 20Fathoms

Internships are a great way to bring new energy and a talent pipeline into your organization, as well as provide a valuable learning experience for a future professional.

At 20Fathoms, we believe in the value of internships and also understand that developing a quality internship program is time consuming. To help you find a great candidate and develop a positive experience for everyone involved, we’ve compiled this toolkit with best practices from industry experts including the George Fox University Idea Center and DePaul University.  

Understand what students need from an internship

Students are seeking opportunities that will provide real-world, professional experiences that will grow their skillsets. A meaningful and purposeful internship will:

  • Ensure the assignment of challenging projects and tasks.
  • Provide projects that complement academic programs and/or career interests.
  • Give broad exposure to the organization.
  • Provide adequate, reliable, and regular supervision and mentoring.
  • Give an opportunity to build a professional network.

Checklist for a valuable internship

  • It is an extension of the classroom, focusing on learning and applying academic knowledge in a real work environment.
  • It has structure with clear start and end dates and a written job description defining the scope of work.
  • It has clearly defined learning goals that relate to that professional field.
  • There is supervision by a professional with expertise in the area the intern will be working. (For example, a marketing internship should be supervised by a marketing professional.)
  • The necessary resources, equipment, and training are provided by the employer.

Preparation and planning

Advanced planning in the following areas are important for creating a successful internship experience.

Plan and post the position

An internship should be posted 7-10 weeks before the expected start date. This will allow plenty of time to screen and select appropriate candidates.

You’ll also need to consider workload and availability of projects, staff support, office space, and financial resources.

Effective Supervision

Due to the training nature of an internship, sufficient supervision is essential. The supervisor should plan on meeting with the intern consistently and often to stay up to date on the intern’s progress.

Meaningful Assignments

Additional projects should be available in case the intern successfully completes a project ahead of schedule.

When possible, try to include the intern in organizational events such as staff meetings and allow opportunities for networking and informational interviewing.


If the intern meets the criteria for a learner/trainee, the employer is not required to pay a minimum wage, which means that the position offers a measurable learning component. That being said, financial compensation is always preferred even if the student is earning academic credit.


An internship can only be a true learning experience if constructive feedback is provided. An effective evaluation will focus on the intern’s identified learning objectives. Time should be given to evaluate both a student’s positive accomplishments as well as room for improvement.

College Credit

Oftentimes, student interns benefit from earning college credit as part of their internship. And some employers require students to get credit, especially if the internship is unpaid. If this is the case, it’s important to be aware that students have to pay for summer credits.

However, college credit is not a requirement for an internship.

How to write a great job description

Effective job descriptions are engaging and will prompt the right candidates to apply. A great job description will include the following:

Job title

The job title should be clear and specific. (This is what first captures a student’s attention.)

Important details

Include the start and end date, hours, location and compensation.

Company description

Include a strong attention-grabbing summary with an overview of your company. Hook your reader with details about what makes your company unique and why someone would want to work there.

Duties and responsibilities

Outline the core responsibilities of the position and highlight the day-to-day activities.

Qualifications, skills, and abilities

State the skills and abilities you’re looking for. Consider a list of “required qualifications” and “preferred qualifications” to increase your pool of candidates. (Many students will not apply for a position if they do not feel they have all the qualifications.)

How to apply

Indicate how to apply and the deadline.

Onboard your new intern

Once your intern has started, it’s time to onboard them to the company and their role. DePaul University provides these great onboarding tips for a successful internship experience.

Introduce Your Intern

Provide a good introduction to the organization, quirks of the culture, and important people or resources to be aware of. You may also consider arranging an informational interview for your intern with fellow colleagues to help them prepare for a future career within the industry.


Communicate often with your intern, whether it is to provide feedback, offer training, or to check in on their progress. By keeping the lines of communication open, you can get a sense of how quickly interns complete projects while offering feedback on the quality of their work.

Integrate Your Intern

Allowing interns to gain a greater understanding of your organization can help them generate new ideas and have a more rewarding internship. Consider bringing them to meetings, conferences, training, and networking events with you.

Delegate Projects for Downtime

When delegating projects to your intern, consider mixing short-term and long-term projects. If interns finish short-term tasks early, they will have a long-term project to continue and take initiative on.

Set S.M.A.R.T. Learning Goals Together

Discuss the marketable skills your intern can learn or hone through the internship experience and help him or her set S.M.A.R.T. goals (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, time-bound) in order to achieve them. 

Resources for 20Fathoms Members

For 20Fathoms members, we’ll help you get the word out about your summer internship through our website and other communication channels. Contact a member of our team for more information or to submit your job posting.