Internship Programs – Can a Temporary Role Deliver Permanent Success?

Attracting top-tier talent is an ongoing challenge for every successful business. Finding that talent early can give a company a significant long-term advantage. If your business is prepared to invest in a comprehensive internship program, the competition to achieve such a coveted place will be fierce.

So what are the realities for interns? Understanding their immediate motivations and long-term aspirations gives a business the best chance at attracting the leaders of the future now.

The value on offer must transcend superficial gimmicks and deliver an immersive experience that is inspiring and enlightening for those at the start of their chosen career paths. Mercer Talent Enterprise drilled down into a range of data to gain some key insights and found that the interns we employ had plenty to teach us in return.

According to the Vault survey 2021 ; “Career advancement in chosen industry” was the No. 1 deciding factor when choosing an internship. “Corporate culture” was the No. 2 deciding factor, followed by “Opportunity for a full-time job offer” at No. 3, and “Pay” at No. 4..”

Tech-savvy Talent

Mercer Talent Enterprise is future-proofing the talent pipeline by incorporating the elements that interns care about into every aspect of the internship program. It is clear that this generation of graduates are tech-savvy and, as a result, highly adaptable.

In a challenging year for everyone, many interns had to manage online internship programs. 76.5% of internships were fully virtual this year. This pivot was less traumatic for the younger team members, as so much of their life is already digitized. Online lessons and meetings aren’t uncommon, and smartphones have made entire conversations silent for this generation. In some ways, they had a distinct advantage over those in older age groups who struggled with the speed of the online shift.

Consider “…when researching internships, most interns relied on their laptops or smartphones: 91.5% of respondents frequently used laptops, 37.0% frequently used smartphones, 16.1% frequently used desktop computers, and 8.0% frequently used tablets.”

Switching seamlessly to online-only contact proved their commitment to the work and the company. Our own interns this year were very keen to share their feedback with us on their experience and we welcomed their generous and meaningful insights.

A temporary experience that frames a future

Every business needs to analyze its own feedback from interns and assess how the process was experienced from their perspective. To find out whether they felt included, appreciated, valued and inspired as a result, which is exactly what Mercer Talent Enterprise team did:

Firstly, the amazing Amisha – “I am a genuine and candid person who loves taking on challenges and contributing more than what is expected of me.” 

Her contribution during her time here has been driven by her own innate talents and genuine enthusiasm for the work.

“The moment I walked into the office of MTE, the warm welcome I received from Radhika, the Co-Founder of MTE, I knew I wanted to work for the company. The office space speaks volumes for the people and the culture it nurtures.

Given my past internship experiences, I expected the internship at MTE to be just the same in the sense of living the same day, every day, holding limited responsibilities, and having minimum flexibility to move around the company and explore.

On the contrary, it has provided me with a completely different experience, one where I get the opportunity to work on multiple projects, support on projects across different departments, learn in-depth about different functions of a consultancy with colleagues who are happy to support and guide as needed, and that I think is more than you can ask for from an internship.”

Moving on to our fiercely talented Malak, who found the experience gave her a whole new level of self-confidence – “I can do a lot more than I thought I could.” She was very focused and knew exactly what she wanted to gain from this experience. 

“I was looking for an internship which could give me an insight into the field of Organizational Psychology to see if it is a career path I would be interested in pursuing during my final year of university. Reading more about Mercer Talent Enterprise, the type of work they do and learning more about their previous projects with well-known clients motivated me to join the team. Moreover, what made me more eager to join was the fact that MTE is a relatively new company (founded around 10 years ago) and consisted of a small team, which meant that I would have the opportunity to contribute more and learn more from others as well as building strong professional relationships with all my colleagues in a friendly working environment.

As I first walked into the office, I absolutely admired the working space set-up and got the impression that employees here work very closely together as there were no individual cubicles. I had the opportunity to sit and chat with Jola, my supervisor, about my learning goals during the internship period and then got introduced to a very welcoming team who presented me with detailed slides of the various company activities and their different roles. During my first few days, I mainly observed how the team worked and was given some reading materials about previous projects. I also organized 1-1 virtual meetings with the team members that I couldn’t get to meet personally in order to get to know them a bit more.

If I was to describe my experience with MTE in one word, I would say it has been very insightful. I had the opportunity to work with various members of the team and hence got a hands-on experience on multiple projects such as identifying high potential employees via assessment day centres or virtual activities. Being involved in such projects helped me understand the role of organizational psychologists, which I found fascinating.

I honestly feel like time flew by as I enjoyed every single day working with MTE. I have come a long way from where I started as I got the opportunity to feel positively challenged which helped me develop multiple skills. I now feel more comfortable and confident with the working lifestyle, and I definitely feel more experienced and knowledgeable.”

Yukta our gifted, smart worker with a can-do attitude. “A dependable team player with grit and integrity as my strengths.” Her genuine interest in the company, the people and the future was inspiring for us. It felt like a win-win for everyone having her here long-term.

“My expectations before joining MTE was that it would be like any regular internship for a temporary phase. Little did I know, it would turn into a long-term relationship and would greatly be a part of my life. I couldn’t be happier about joining the company in a Consultant role.

My experience working with MTE team has been beyond exceptional. Despite the difficult times and travel restrictions, the team has been extremely supportive and understanding in the entire onboarding process. The regular team meetings were something I always looked forward to and they have been very accommodating and flexible in aiding my university commitments. Communication is the key to getting the work completed to a high standard. 

The past 8 months of the internship has helped me understand my strengths and helped me develop important skills required in any work environment. I can strongly say that this internship has been a very dynamic and a positive shift in my career. My biggest achievement during this internship has been developing an assessment from scratch and watching it go live during my tenure. Additionally, prior to joining the company, I had to undergo the assessments in order to get the internship. Being an intern, it was a great experience working and understanding how the assessments are scored and conducted at the back end. “

7 take-away’s from our interns at Mercer Talent Enterprise:

  • Please consider your internship as a learning journey and make sure you get the most out of it, even if that requires you to step outside your comfort zone. This will help you grow both personally and professionally.
  • Be prepared to work on your multitasking skills, as you might sometimes be working on several tasks at once. However, this will help you stay creative and engaged, especially while working with other colleagues or interns.
  • Take your internship seriously, it is an opportunity to expand your professional network with the team, to learn, to grow and also have fun. 
  • Just be yourself and focus on having a positive attitude throughout your internship.
  • You may not be assigned tasks always or be told what to do. You must go the extra mile to use your own initiative and be proactive.
  • If an internship is treated just like an internship, it will only give you an experience of being an intern. Consider it as a learning experience that will prepare you for the next role you would be taking.
  • It is impossible not to be inspired by professional women empowering the next generation of professional women, they become your role models for life.

Long term wins inside and out

Young, career-driven interns are looking for much more than superficial office design. The internship program needs to deliver an immersive snapshot into the opportunities and experiences that lay ahead. Prospective interns are prioritizing opportunities for growth, mentorship, and learning above all else. 

These positive internship experiences will translate into organic positive feedback and recommendations. Inevitably spreading the same message across social platforms, rebounding tangible wins for the companies that get it right. Cultivating this goodwill is invaluable in building authenticity, as it can validate the information that appears on corporate careers pages.

Hiring interns creates a ripple effect of positive changes across the business. For the current employees – becoming mentors and leaders is a pivotal stage in their own development. It encourages those assigned an intern to hold themselves to a higher standard, as they will be used as a template for the generation that follows. It is an inspiring cycle to build into your business, and the benefits can be felt by every staff member involved. 

When planning the next intern program, look to those who just completed their tenure. Consider the last crop of interns as the most valuable asset. With the feedback from those who were previously interested enough to apply, who went through the application and selection process, and especially those who went on to successfully hold the role, you have a unique opportunity to build an evolved roadmap that learns from past mistakes.

Internships at Mercer Talent Enterprise have always been mutually beneficial. We are grateful to those who have been part of our intern programs so far for always giving us generous and honest feedback.