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Meritage’s Summer Internship Program

Guest post by Julie Pepper Lim, Marketing & Communications Coordinator at Meritage Medical Network

An intern:

  1.  A person who works as an apprentice or trainee in an occupation or profession to gain practical experience, and sometimes also to satisfy legal or other requirements for being licensed or accepted professionally.
  2. (mainly US) A student or recent graduate receiving practical training in a working environment
  3. A supervised discipline-related work experience [involving] an intentional experiential learning strategy, an emphasis on professional development, performance assessments, and reflection and acknowledgment.

The above definitions answer the question: what is an intern, or what is an internship? Intern is also the root of internal: situated or existing in the interior of something. Of, relating to, or noting the inside or inner part.

I love the third definition the most because it includes intention. It comes from an article by the Association of American Colleges & Universities (AACU) and it pertains to internships happening at universities. The article indicates that what sets High Impact internships apart is the standard that institutions set for them.

Though this is true for institutions, it seems equally important for companies. After all, a person who is interning gets a window into the inner workings of a company. Whether, or not, they are paid, an intern steps into a company where many of the complex aspects of the company are revealed, exposed or shared with them, as they embark on their working world and become an interactive part of it, learning about who they are in the workplace. They’re stepping into the interior of something new, possibly even foreign. Doing an internship at a corporation could be the first and/or last time a person works in the corporate world, depending on their experience.

Another definition that the AACU has for internships from a community college: “engage[s] students in a process of active learning that links work experience with opportunities for critical analysis and reflection.”

Critical analysis and reflection should be a part of all of our work days, but I appreciate that the AACU is looking more in depth at what makes a meaningful internship. With internships being a key factor in hiring these days, it seems a critical thing for employers to be thinking about, too, and I love the academia angle that focuses in on what it should really be about.

Interns and internships have become such fascinating subjects, they’re the primary focus in films like: The Intern, and The Internship, both featuring interns older than the generally perceived age.

It seems that we fixate on them, because the stereotype is that they’re young and lacking experience, so it’s moving when they’re older and have the humility to do an internship, and also a wealth of knowledge, like in the case of Robert Deniro, in The Intern, or funny when they’re older, as in the case of Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson, in The Internship, when they lack any kind of technological savvy and are interning at Google, where the younger interns excel in that special kind of genius.

The truth is that though interns may lack some knowledge due to their younger age, they also bring so much to an organization, for so many reasons, not the least of which is all that they’re learning and that they’re eager to learn. They’re quick, they’re smart, they’re nimble with technology, and they give us a fresh perspective, which is always refreshing.

Employers hire interns for a multitude of reasons, sometimes it’s just pure economics in hiring young talent, at a lower pay rate. Often, it’s a recruiting testing ground, for both the intern and the company. Of course, the companies benefit from interns being there, helping teams with projects, time-sensitive deadline driven missions, and some of the things that are especially important, but take lots of time to do, freeing staff up for projects they’ve been meaning to get to, but couldn’t find the time. Companies benefit from only having to make a short-term commitment until they know who the person is and what their work ethic is like.

Interns, in turn, get the great benefit of having the internship on their resume, getting real-world experience, and discovering their place in a field or role. They benefit from the investment companies make in training them, and guiding them, either hiring them, or referring them to other employers resulting in jobs or careers, or even higher education.

Doing an internship in your early career can be a great opportunity. If it turns out that it’s not that early in your career that’s okay, too, if it helps you forge ahead in your working life because it’s in a field you are hoping to be in, or in a role you are looking to explore.

I did one when I first graduated with my Masters because I wanted to make sure that being an older person, I learned everything I could about technology that I might have missed when I was out of the workplace raising my children.

Ironically, things have come full circle now, as the company I work for, Meritage Medical Network has created a summer internship program for kids and grandkids of our staff, and one of those kids turns out to be mine.

She just graduated with her BA in Psychology from UCSB and is going to be studying Organizational Psychology at grad school, so it really made sense for her to work at a corporation that is also a Healthcare Organization. The fact that Meritage paired her with the Care Management department, indicated to me, a thoughtfulness, reflecting the kind of standard they hold for this program.

Not all of our interns are college graduates, yet, (some are still in high school!) or know what they want to do, but all of our interns are incredible and bright and I think will experience a great benefit from being here and I feel genuinely lucky that we have a program like this and can have them working alongside us this summer.

Each intern is paired with a buddy from the department that they’re assigned to, and they may be rotated throughout the different departments represented: Network Relations, Human Resources, IT/Eligibility, Claims, Finance and Care Management.

It is a 9-week paid program offering students the opportunity to work in a healthcare-oriented business setting to observe how a company operates and supports the meeting of established business objectives; orientation to working collaboratively with and for working professionals; an understanding of how to take direction, follow instructions, and complete tasks and projects using business based systems, like Outlook, MIPAnet, Syntranet, as well as equipment like fax machines, mail folding machines, and scanners; and, of course, providing financial support for school and living expenses.

Internships are valuable for so many reasons, but our summer internship program is particularly unique because it allows us to mix our work and home life in the best possible way. Oftentimes we can’t articulate well enough what we do, in a meaningful enough way that our children can truly understand, (sometimes it’s not just our children that can’t understand). How many of you reading this article really knew what your parent did when they went to work every day? This opportunity changes that for those people who are able to take advantage of it. It allows parents and their children, grandparents and their grandkids, to see each other in a different light, to collaborate and strive towards a mutual end, in a different setting.

It not only does my heart good to see my child and my co-workers’ children, working, learning, and earning, together, each day, but I look forward to learning about the impact this experience has on these interns and whether, or not, they will consider it a “high impact” internship. I’ll want to know what they liked the most about it, what they hated, what they never knew, that they know, now. I’d love to do a comparison of the people that walked in on their first day, to the people that walk out. I’m so excited to witness new skills emerging, transformations, big and small, epiphanies, and new capabilities in problem-solving, along with the critical analysis and reflection the AACU referenced in defining their internships. Internships originated with the goal of developing professional people and that is a very clear intention.

I can’t help but have overlapping pride as a mom seeing all of these great kids thriving in our workplace, and as a staff member, working for a company with so high a standard and such good intentions. Meritage has successfully blurred the lines between work life and home life. Our CEO often makes reference to the fact that Meritage is really like a family. I’m so grateful to become a part of this family, and that this family has extended the warm welcome to my own.

Thank you, Meritage, for the summer internship program and for such a great beginning to summer!

Julie Pepper Lim works in the Network Relations department of Meritage Medical Network in Marketing and Communications. She is a published fiction author, essayist, short story writer, playwright and a strong believer in story’s power to transcend.