4 Ways to Help Interns Be Successful

(and Meaningful within Your Organization)

A successful intern can be a huge (albeit temporary) asset to your business, but, like any employee, they need a little maintenance and management. They’re looking for guidance within their role, so if your organization will be taking on some interns this season, here are a few things to know:

1) Don’t forget that this is a job
You hire an intern (we hope) the same way you would hire an employee–start with a job description and an interview. Don’t just agree to give your golf buddy’s son an internship because he’s a junior business major who will be around during the summer and needs something to do.

Even if your intern is appointed through a program or educational institution, schedule an interview to get to know them. Connect their resume with their face and find out their goals for their internship experience with your company. Share your expectations, and start thinking of ways to align their work with their interests and professional aspirations wherever possible.

2) Plan their work
Robin Reshwan outlines three different types of work to prepare and assign to interns: an orientation project, a long-term project that spans the length of their internship with various deliverables throughout, and filler work. Projects should encourage meaningful skills development that the intern can use throughout his or her career. This might require some training, but the investment of your time and money will pay off for your organization and improve the quality of work the intern produces during the summer. To read more about the specific types of projects and work an intern should do, along with other tips in this newsletter, see Robin Reshawn’s full article from US News.

3) Tips for filler tasks
Let’s be honest–not everything an intern does is super glamorous, and a lot of the “filler” tasks are probably somewhat menial, or things that need to get done but no one has the time (or inclination) to do them. Provide context for the work itself–especially if it could be categorized as “grunt work.” Don’t just say, “This will probably suck, have fun,” and send your poor intern on their way. Explain the bigger picture and what the gruntwork will do in the context of the team or organization. How will it impact (and help!) customers or other employees in the organization?

Note: As nice as it sounds to have an intern do the data entry and run the errands that you don’t want to do, don’t have an intern just for filler tasks. They expect valuable and meaningful experience in exchange for the work and time they’re dedicating to your organization, and they’re eager to learn and take on responsibility–you just have to be willing to give it to them.

4) Setting post-internship expectations
If you’re not prepared to hire an intern full-time, let them know before they start and make it clear that you can’t guarantee a full-time position once their internship is over. If you’re from a large organization that recruits heavily from within the pool of existing interns, walk them through the application process so they can be thinking about it throughout their internship. If your intern was successful but you can’t hire him or her at the end of the summer, a nice letter of recommendation never hurts–neither does your willingness to be listed as a reference on their resume. Thank your interns and recognize them in some meaningful way–even if it’s as simple as a signed card from you and your team and a goodie bag.

Even though an intern might just serve a short stint in your organization, you’re part of one of their first professional experiences ever, and they won’t forget it. Acknowledge the role you’re playing in their career, and help them get as much from the experience as you hope to get from them!

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