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Supervision and Feedback 

An overarching theme in the internship experience is the expectation that interns will be able to demonstrate initiative and work with minimal supervision. This theme carries into the types and frequency of formal supervision of intern activities. A few respondents indicated that interns are closely supervised and several indicated that supervision was tailored to the tasks difficulty and interns ability to perform the task. Typically, however, the intern is expected to understand and independently perform daily activities with minimal direction with the final product being reviewed by a senior consultant or supervisor. Nevertheless, many respondents indicated that they expect the intern to ask questions and clarify goals when needed.  

In terms of performance feedback, it was surprising that only 78% of respondents indicated that they provide feedback to interns especially given the widespread acknowledgement that regular feedback is critical to performance development. Among this group, there was substantial variation in the formality, frequency, content, and source of the performance reviews. For example, 35% use an informal process, 12% use a formal process, and 19% use a mixture of both. A few (7%) follow their organizations feedback process. In terms of frequency, 20% indicate that it is provided on an ongoing basis, 14% provide feedback quarterly, and 12% provide feedback at the end of the internship. 

Feedback is most typically provided informally in face-to-face coaching or mentoring sessions and is provided by a variety of sources including supervisors, team members, customers, and mentors. Most participants provide project or task-specific feedback; however, only three specifically mentioned setting standards and/or goals for the intern. Furthermore, when formal reviews and documentation occur, they are typically done at year-end or to fulfill graduate school requirements and are rarely done for the purpose of performance development.  

What does this mean for internship seekers? While managers typically expect interns to demonstrate initiative and work with minimal supervision, you should ask questions and clarify goals when necessary. While the majority of organizations provide performance feedback, it is not a guarantee; you may need to ask for it. If you do receive performance feedback, it is likely to be provided informally in coaching or mentoring sessions.

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