A few summers ago, an intern at my newspaper showed up to the office in a sheer blouse. While the young guys in were thrilled, her supervisor had to sit her down and explain to her what work attire should look like.
Today, with real jobs hard to come by, interns can't afford a dress code mistake. Students must make their internships count, if not in pay, then in marketable experience, connections and maybe even a job offer.
At the same time, employers have much to gain, too, if they rise above viewing interns as free labor and seize the opportunity to gain insight into the future workforce.
"You're getting the thinking of a generation you don't currently employ," said Mary Young, director of the University of Miami's Sanford L. Ziff Graduate Career Services Center.
For employers, consider these recommendations to make the most of your college internship programs:
• Let the education flow both ways. At the Riverside Hotel in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., social media manager Alex Vidal says he's taught Yoonjung Kang, an intern from Embassy CES Language School, how to market a business using social media. But Ms. Kang, from Korea, has shared her insight into the Asian market the hotel wants to court.
• Be inclusive. Viviana Planas, who oversees Royal Caribbean's RCL Emerging Leaders Internship program, says she urges supervisors to include students in decision-making moments and seek their perspective.
• Give interns a task to own. At Florida-based Sushi Maki, owner Abe Ng urges his interns to complete a project over the eight-week period.
This summer, an intern took on creating a direct mailer promoting the restaurants' bubble tea.
"He's handled everything from design to copy to production to marketing," Mr. Ng said. "I spent a very unproductive summer one year, and I don't want my interns to feel that way."employment
Cindy Krischer Goodman is CEO of BalanceGal LLC, a provider of news and advice on how to balance work and life. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.