Management - Develop Your Millennial Sales Force

How To Tap Into The Power Of Internship Programs

Internships have become a critical next step for undergraduate students in order to align themselves with successful and viable careers. Toward that end, colleges and universities are seeking to connect students with opportunities for on-the-job training in an attempt to increase their likelihood of career success. Internship programs are a critical link in the overall learning experience and whether a student attends a trade school, art school, Ivy League university or community college, the intent is the same: to send students into their careers having had the opportunity to learn critical skills firsthand.

More than 56 percent of students from the class of 2015 who participated in an internship or co-op program had received at least one job offer by April of last year, according to a report from the National Association of Colleges and Employers, as cited in a recent article in U.S. News & World Report. Only 36.5 percent of undergrads who didn't have an internship or co-op experience had received at least one job offer.

When I was an undergraduate, internships meant the difference between graduating and not, as a minimum of six months as an unpaid intern was a degree requirement. Additionally, the internship program required the student to work a minimum of 20 hours a week for an organization directly related to the student’s chosen degree. This was an unprecedented opportunity for the school to create an external education platform that, in my experience, was just as valuable as four years in the classroom.

It’s a model being developed throughout the collegiate system. At some schools, the student works in exchange for course credit, and internships coordinated through schools are almost always unpaid. But an intern program should be one that challenges students, and helps them seek out new career potential and one that hopefully has reciprocal value.

How To Make Internships Work

The promotional products industry offers a fun, creative and unique landscape for students to achieve their academic goals. There are many companies in our industry, both suppliers and distributors, that participate in collegiate intern programs. This is a way to showcase our industry and to highlight the possibilities that our industry holds, not only for a potential employee, but for a future marketer.

Supplier SnugZ USA has recently begun an intern program that seeks to promote the promotional products business but also helps deliver educational value to collegiate undergrads.

“It is important to establish goals and training methods for your intern program and ensure that you are actively evaluating the goals,” says Brittany David, vice president of sales, SnugZ USA. “Being able to provide constant feedback will guarantee the intern is progressing and continually learning.”

Internships in our industry often work best when a company is able to give the participant a well-rounded experience. This means connecting them with your company and having them engage in the creative process, connecting them with customers, and developing opportunities to be part of the team. Those in our industry that have had interns will tell you that the experience is equally fulfilling for the host company. There is no person more tapped in to developing trends and advances in business practices than an eager college student nearing graduation.

In every conversation I have had about intern programs in our industry, I always ask about what the hosting company got from the experience. Most business leaders are ecstatic about what they learned from having an intern over a short period of time. They may learn ways to better market to customers, how to harness their social media power, affordable technologies that can be implemented and any number of other valuable tools. For most businesses, what they are willing to give to an intern program they will get back in equal value.

Intern programs are also not limited to large suppliers and distributors. They can be managed at any level. Even the smallest distributor has something valuable to teach an intern and that distributor may also learn valuable tools for business success in return. Even if you know that you cannot offer a permanent position at the conclusion of the program, it is still important to challenge your business practices by working with interns.

How Interns Can Contribute To Your Business

It is imperative that your interns not be hired to sit in a call center or be a cold caller exclusively. Participation and mastery of this practice is an excellent skill and should be part of the intern program. However, in order to make our industry internships competitive with others in sales and marketing, there needs to be a possibility for the intern to get off the phones and learn other skills. Again, this can be achieved at any level. A small distributor may take interns to client meetings or to a networking group to increase their exposure. A supplier may have the intern spend a day reviewing orders or updating customer satisfaction reports. All areas within our industry hold value and are important to understanding why we operate the way we do.

Getting Started

Setting up an intern program varies depending on the school you are working with, but most of the time it’s an easy process. To get started, identify a local university or college with which you want to work and contact their career success or career services department. You can narrow down the search by looking for schools with strong marketing or advertising departments or business schools. The school will want some information about your internship opportunity and a sample intern job description (see below). Many schools may have someone come to your place of business and meet with you, but this will only need to happen once. After the process begins, to select candidates the school will review applicants and send you only ones that closely fit your criteria. After the intern begins working, there will be various procedures that you will need to participate in on an ongoing basis such as hours verification and intern assessments.

Outcomes To Expect

Upon completion of the internship program, a student should be able to comprehend our industry’s unique supply chain process and communicate the value behind the various stages of development and delivery of a promotional campaign. Most important, whether hired or not, a successful completion means that the intern understands our place as an advertising medium. This will ensure that no matter where they end up in their career, they will always know the power of promotional products.

Legal Ramifications

There are certain criteria that need to be met for an unpaid internship to be considered legal. First, an organization must provide an educational environment. This would mean giving the intern a chance to learn and develop their skills through hands-on experience instead of giving them a strictly task-oriented job. Another factor to consider is that the intern should be using the experience to benefit their educational growth and not exclusively to have an unpaid job. Next, the employer must ensure that the intern is not replacing existing employee roles. Employers should also not seek out any immediate advantage from their intern such as making sales or generating sales revenue. Also, most schools will have the employing organization state that a job is not guaranteed at the conclusion of the intern program. Finally, the employer and the intern must agree that there is no financial gain opportunity for the intern during their time in the program. If you are considering a paid internship program, check your state employment laws.

To learn more about setting up an intern program and for a sample job description for suppliers, visit

Seth Barnett, a member of the Millennial generation, is PPAI’s diversity development and engagement manager.

Six Steps To Better Internships

Distributor Brand Fuel has seen various levels of success with its intern program. President Danny Rosin has established six steps that can be followed to create a more valuable experience for the intern and the employer:

1. Give your intern a fun, engaging project to work on.

2. Reciprocity is critical; give them work where they can learn and develop new skills.

3. Call your intern something other than an intern; the term “associate” may help build more self-esteem.

4. Create a job description that outlines the intern’s responsibility.

5. Involve them in company activities.

6. Find ways to recognize their accomplishments.

Marketing/ Sales/ Advertising Internship

Sample Job Description For Distributors


Our company is looking for a qualified intern to join our promotional products distributor team. We specialize in marketing physical advertising products as part of marketing campaigns for our clients. We are seeking an intern who can participate in various stages of developing and delivering a promotional products campaign.

An ideal intern would be prepared to work in a fast-paced, team environment and will be able to complete the internship having gained a broad understanding of the promotional products industry and our unique supply chain.


• Gain an understanding of the supplier – distributor – end user supply chain in the promotional products industry by studying processes in sales, art and manufacturing

• Analyze product reports and trends

• Develop sales skills to function as sales support

• Participate in leadership development training through senior leadership

• Develop interpersonal communication skills to help advance personal productivity

• Assist in social media marketing campaigns

• Assist in designing marketing campaigns to hit targeted audiences

• Assist in developing relationships with low performing accounts


We are looking for an undergraduate student who is majoring in Marketing, Management or Advertising. This person should have excellent verbal and written communication skills, with extensive knowledge of web and social media.


Marketing, Sales, Management, Advertising

filed under may-2016 | ppb
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