Our summer interns recently wrapped up their internships. As I write this, I am reflecting on their internships as well as our summer internship program. My company had a great group of internal audit interns again this year, with backgrounds ranging from accounting to petroleum engineering to computer sciences, which brought new skills and ways of thinking to our team. Some of our interns were pursing masters' degrees, while others were going into their senior year as undergraduates.
One of my favorite aspects of my job is leading the recruiting efforts for my company's internal audit internships. As part of the recruiting process, I love spending time on campus sharing what it is like to work in the internal audit profession and answering the questions of students who are trying to determine what career path is right for them, including the various roles that internal audit can play, depending on the organization. I also enjoy interviewing students to determine not only which students may be the best fit for our team, but also to understand the perspectives of the future practitioners who will be joining our profession.
Ultimately, I think my company benefits as much or more from participating in an internship program as the students that intern with us. While our interns receive college credit for their internships, we get the advantage of being able to leverage the tools they are learning in their classes. For example, our interns have assisted in developing tools and templates to more effectively and efficiently complete our work, as well as identifying processes that could be further automated. In addition, our interns have helped us understand what is important to today's college students, allowing us to make adjustments to our structure, as needed, to best position us to attract and retain the workforce of the future.
Obviously, each organization should structure its intern program to best fit its needs. With that in mind, here are a few things that have worked well for my company:
- As part of the recruiting process, look for interns whose culture and values align with those of the organization.
- Develop a formal onboarding process, inclusive of both the technical skills and soft skills required for the internal audit role, as well as structured role-playing activities to allow the interns to put the concepts into practice (you may consider pushing down some of this responsibility to your staff and seniors, which will position them for future growth as well).
- Hold a team-building activity for the full department in the early days of the internship to allow the interns an opportunity to get to know the rest of the team in a relaxed setting. (This year we did beach volleyball, and everyone had a great time.)
- Integrate training opportunities throughout the internship, as applicable.
- Identify a champion who will be the point person for each intern throughout the internship, assisting with various questions and needs that arise.
- Provide meaningful work that demonstrates to them what a day in the life of an internal auditor is like so that they can determine if this is something they want to do long term.
- Discuss with them the benefits of certification and encourage them to pursue their Certified Internal Auditor or other certification, ideally while they are still in school.
- Similar to any new employee, set expectations and check in early and often. Don't be afraid to provide feedback that will help position them for future success.
- Have an open door and also be open to learning from your interns.
- Complete a formal evaluation at the conclusion of the internship, to both provide feedback to the intern on his or her job performance as well as to obtain the intern's feedback on the internship.
- Hold an internship wrap-up event, such as a happy hour or other team-building activity to end the internship on a high note.
- Have fun — it seems like our internships always fly by!
In many ways, an internship can be used as an extended job interview, allowing both the company and the intern to determine if the fit is right before making a full-time commitment. Further, today's college graduates will not only be the future of the internal audit profession, but also the future stakeholders with whom internal audit will be working. A strong internship program is one of the best ways to position the internal audit function for the future.
If your company has an internship program, I'd love to hear what has and hasn't worked for you.