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Intern Bridge: College Grad Gives Internship Recruiting a Makeover

An internship should be less about getting coffee for your boss and more about real-world experience. This is among the golden rules of internship management, according to former intern Richard Bottner.

Bottner, 22, is a May 2007 graduate of Babson College. His interest in the field of human resources and contact with an HR trade group ultimately led him to pursue an internship at one of Boston’s largest companies, Byron Industries. However, no more than two weeks into the position, Bottner realized there was a drastic disconnect between the interns and the employer. Generation Y workers, he says, are looking for fulfillment in their work and want an involved role in an internship—something that employers often overlook.

Bottner took these observations and experiences into account and was eager to take action. He sent a message to some of the special interest groups of the HR association. In the email, Bottner conveyed his concerns and his observations during the internship. He even went as far to propose conducting research into internship management.

The reaction from Byron Industries encouraged him to bring a proposal to his professor. The proposed survey ended up being one of the largest to focus solely on internships: the New England Internship Study, with 31 participating universities, 250 student employers and 6,000 student responses.

Today, the survey is called The National Internship and Co-op Study and represents 400 college campuses and two million college students. The 200-question survey runs the gamut of topics related to internships: marketing, structure, supervisor, compensation, benefits, evaluation, orientation, and much more.

A rewarding internship experience at Au Bon Pain in the summer of 2006 was both a résumé builder and a foundation for Bottner’s business plan. He noted that the company had a rather informal internship program, but it did it better and more effectively than Byron Industries—without spending a great deal of money. That observation became the foundation for his approach to internship management and his company, Intern Bridge Inc., a consulting company in Acton, Mass., designed to bridge the gap between interns and employers.

Using his good and bad experiences, Bottner developed a guide to effectively managing interns, covering such topics as defining and structuring the internship program, supervising, marketing, interviewing and selection. He is bringing a fresh perspective on internships to students and employers alike. Universities and employers looking to start internship programs are Bottner’s main clients. His company has clout because it is backed by intensive research.

“What makes us unique, he says, “is that we’re not just preaching about internships, we have data. We analyze survey responses against other information in the survey, such as geographic region or academic major, to come to realistic conclusions about how to best manage internships,” he says.

Intern Bridge received a grant from the National Association of Colleges and Employers to implement the National Internship Study on college campuses across the nation. Last fall they completed this survey—by conducting a survey like this on a national level they are able to track regional trends. This landmark study provides an extensive amount of information to the higher education community, and the employers who hire students as part of these important developmental experiences.

For more information about Intern Bridge, go to www.internbridge.com.

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