Crushing, unfair, exploitative, making-copies-and-grabbing-coffee — the roll of negative publicity for the misunderstood internship gets longer every year. Films and TV, social media threads and newspaper editorials crop up every year denigrating them. For instance, this article in Time, which holds internships as worse than the endless apprenticeships of the middle ages.

True, there have been the bad apples among employers, but the good these opportunities do fledgling professionals is forgotten quickly. They not only provide a smooth transition into professional life, offer on-the-job training without the actual pressure, and reasonable financial independence in many cases. Moreover, those who have interned once have much better chances of being hired, according to a study by The Conversation.

As for employers, they gain a much fresher perspective on a lot of organizational issues and try out a prospective employee in a buffer period of sorts. A bad hire could cost a company around 30% of his/her first year’s salary, according to the US Department of Labor, as quoted by Forbes. They also help gauge up-and-coming talent, and share their knowledge pool and the needs and offerings of the industry. Attracting talent with the right skills and then retaining them as dedicated employees is important. For that, it is essential to create a really attractive internship program — and here’s how to do it:

Design and Promote it Well

Most battles are decided at this initial stage. Carry out the required market research — get in touch with your competition to get a peek into the structure of their programs. What are the projects going to be? How are you going to dish out performance reviews? Come up with a tangible list of tasks that you’re going to set aside for your interns. Is signing up for the stint easy enough (think a snazzy social media post) or is it a complicated online form demanding long-form essays? The latter will turn most of them away.

The promotion part of it is no less important, since it goes a long way in cementing your brand image before a whole generation of upcoming graduates. Organizing campus visits, posting video tours and giving away ready swag packs are well worth the investment, say experts at Inkwell. Good promotion can help prospective talent relate to your brand in no time, and there’s no better time than the start of the summer internship season to do it.

Quid Pro Quo: The Name of the Game

Only major corporations can pay their interns more than twice of the average national wage, as reported by Glassdoor in its survey of the 25 highest-paying internships in the US. However, that doesn’t mean companies can’t make the most of the compensation they pay their staff. If you can’t offer relocation assistance, volunteering leave and paid holidays, look at assisting them with crafting more professional resumes and giving away food vouchers. Some organizations even partner with educational institutions to offer scholarships. And remember, attempting to secure unpaid work is sure to undermine the reputation of your internship program, even if you are treating interns as trainees.

Offer Networking Opportunities and On-the-Job Skill Upgradation

The celebrated Hollywood filmmaker Steven Spielberg is known to have entered Universal Studios through the backdoor as a 17-year-old intern. He struck a good relationship with a few directors and managed to make a short film that landed him a 7-year deal with the studio, says a listicle by HuffPost. That is the power of networking for you. Offer interns a package where they’ll be exposed to knowledge-sharing sessions like seminars and taken on work visits and not consigned to the desk. Designing training programs for full-time interns is also an idea that will make the offer attractive. In case you aren’t sure about hiring them, it is great to help them with leads and references.

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