An internship is a great way for college students and others to gain experience in a given field. Interns may be paid or unpaid, or they may receive a stipend instead of wages or salary. But there's one thing that an internship is not, and that's permanent.

Companies generally hire interns to work for a set period of time. Sometimes it's for the duration of a specific project, other times it's for a set number of weeks or months. Essentially, the internship ends when the company says it ends.

But it is important for business owners to set some sort of tangible time frame for an internship. It should be in writing, and you should also make it clear to your intern verbally. Not doing so could subject you to headaches once it's time for the intern to go, or possibly even legal problems.

What to Do When It's Over

Business owners often make the mistake of setting up an internship, taking on an intern, and then forgetting about it once it's over. By doing this, they may be missing out on some valuable opportunities. If the intern did a really good job, for example, the employer might want to discuss hiring her once she is finished with school. And even if the employer is not interested in hiring the intern, he can extend goodwill by staying in contact with her.

Two technicians one male and one female in laboratory coats are examining plates and tissue culture flasks at a laminar flow hood. The lighting has a soft amber glow.Two technicians in laboratory coats are examining plates and tissue culture flasks at a laminar flow hood.

Here are some ways that you can keep in touch with former interns:

Offer a mentorship program that begins when the internship ends. A mentor doesn't have to dedicate a lot of time to the task. Simply contacting the former intern every few weeks to see how things are going and answer any questions she may have will suffice.

Ask former interns to do paid presentations to recruit new interns. This is a great way to get fresh new faces into your internship program. It lets them talk to someone who knows first-hand what it's like to be an intern for your company.

Send your former intern a birthday card or a small gift. This simple gesture will show your appreciation for the intern's time with your company, and it will foster goodwill that might generate referrals.

Hold events for former interns. This can be done in person or online. Interns that have worked together often have a desire to keep in touch with one another, and providing an avenue for them to do that will be beneficial to them as well as to you.

Business owners should have a clear idea of how long they plan to keep an intern around, and they need to make sure the intern is aware of that. But that doesn't mean that you can't keep your former intern in the loop once it is over. By keeping in touch, you can keep the door open for doing business in the future, or perhaps even hiring the former intern as an employee.