Why you should redesign your internship program

by | Aug 9, 2022 | Insights



Today’s job market is competitive, and talented students don’t look for internships getting coffee and doing grunt-work. They want real-world experience that will help them succeed in their future endeavors.

Internships are meant to provide more value beyond free labor. A thriving internship program offers existing employees an opportunity to improve through mentorship. It provides opportunities for fresh perspectives from younger generations.

Think of how much more easily your intern navigates social than a Gen X coworker. And just imagine tackling TikTok with no interns to catch us up on trends or act as the cringe police.

If your internship program feels like a mere afterthought, maybe it’s time for a change… 

In our latest conversation with Anais about The 3rd Eye’s recently revamped Pupil Project, our COO provided valuable guidance on how to design an internship program that benefits both your interns and your business.

  1. How can I make my internship program better?
  2. Why should other businesses consider redesigning their internships?
  3. What’s excited you the most about seeing the pupil project come to fruition?

How can I make my internship program better?

What to avoid

“I can’t speak for all internships, but I wanted this one to be different from the ones I’d experienced in my 20s. 

When we were designing the Pupil Project, we all talked about our horror stories versus what we would’ve wanted instead. 

I worked at a fairly large PR agency once for an internship—and PR was not for me. They sent me out to get coffees for the whole office, so I spent 100+ dollars on coffee as a 20-something intern. And no one told me how to expense it! I was young and felt weird asking—so I never did. 

I also had one while I was getting my masters where my day-to-day consisted of transferring information to a new excel sheet—not much learning involved. 

So, we wanted to make sure nothing like this happened at T3E. An internship shouldn’t discourage you from asking questions, and it shouldn’t be more than 20% busy work.

What to implement

For a successful internship program, make sure your interns are gaining real-world experience.

At an agency, that means pitching in on real work assignments, participating in a professional environment, and getting constructive feedback.

We found the best way to do this was to implement structure and pair the interns up with a mentor from their own department.

Start with a bang

We also made sure to implement structure. We started the internship with an abbreviated version of our brand retreat, which is a service we provide as a part of our C-level consulting.

Many organizations feel the need to revisit their brand archetype or USP, and we work through that rebuild in a brand retreat—an exercise that also works for startups looking to build a brand.

Rob and I spent half a day with them, showed them examples of past brand retreats, and helped them start brainstorming. That was their first exercise, to create an agency of their own.

They started on a Monday, and by Thursday, they were able to come together in this impressive presentation where each one spoke up—a group of students who had only just met!

Prioritize Mentorship

We designated mentors for each intern, making sure to involve selected mentors from each department in the hiring process.

And in the first two weeks, the interns shadowed their mentors daily—practicing skills from their respective fields.

Make sure to create fruitful mentorship opportunities and foster an educational environment. At T3E, we encourage mentors to bring interns into creative and strategic meetings.

Allow moments for interns to speak up, get noticed, and ask questions.

Introduce A Project

With the agency they created in their brand retreat, we invited the interns to view T3E as a client and gave them a list of deliverables. 

In the second half of their internship, they worked together to develop a brand strategy and execute it creatively—putting what they’ve learned into practice.

Why should other businesses consider redesigning their internships?

intern on the left learning from her mento on the right, sitting together with their laptops open

To foster a collaborative environment

Mentorship creates a collaborative environment. And well-planned internship programs are ideal training grounds to develop mentorship skills.

Having great mentors makes us work smarter

If you want growth at your agency, I think mentorship is a big piece of that. And internship programs develop mentorship skills.

As a mentor, when you become skilled at identifying talent and connecting the dots, you can enable your team to work smarter, not harder.

Mentoring a new hire for a full-time position can put a lot of pressure on existing employees. Mentoring an intern, however, is lower risk. It’s not only a way to provide the intern with access to a professional in their aspiring career—but also a way to provide the mentor with experience in mentoring.

It’s great practice for current employees who seem to have a natural talent for mentorship, but haven’t had a chance to stretch their legs yet. 

Constant mentorship keeps the talent pipeline alive—where a pool of candidates at the agency are prepared to fill a position when it opens. 

Team members learning to cultivate new talent is key for agency growth.

To learn from younger generations

Advertising is one of those industries where you become a dinosaur real quick, because things are changing constantly. Even before our rebrand, we’ve always operated by melding the older generation with that of the new generation.

It doesn’t matter how much experience you have, or how old you are, I think talent is talent.

In order to stay relevant in this business, you have to keep your finger on the pulse of what’s new. Interns can teach us new ideas and fresh ways of looking at things.

Mentoring is a balance. They learn from us, we learn from them. Our experience provides wisdom and structure—but the interns teach you about the new wave, what’s important now, or trends about which you often had no idea.

What’s excited you the most about seeing the Pupil Project come to fruition?

three interns with their laptops open, standing collaborating in T3E huddle room

Everyone at T3E has really welcomed them! And they fit in great with our company culture. 

I also love how excited they’ve been to come into work every day! I thought the interns were going to want to be remote. But the opposite happened. They all told me that most of their college experience was online or remote. And being able to work in-person with other people has meant so much to them.

Our values matter to them

The interns this summer share our mission about health and wellness, which I thought was very interesting. Everyone I interviewed for this internship program told me that what we stood for as an agency aligned with their values. Each emphasized that working for someone with similar values is important to them.

Closing Thoughts

If you’re interested in stepping up the mentorship at your agency while bringing in fresh perspectives, take a look at your interns. 

With a little structure, you’ll ensure that your interns are getting the most from their Summer Internship and that your current employees grow in the process.”

If you need help getting promotional materials for recruitment in front of the right eyes, shoot us an email. We’ll ensure you get candidates who are the right match.



Anais Rodriguez

Content Writer

See More By Anais Rodriguez