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Let’s face it, hiring and hosting an intern can be a lot of work. You have interns in order to make a contribution to young talent and to provide for the work of your company, but also as a way to assess potential hires who can boomerang back into full-time roles.
If you’re taking on an intern, or a group of interns, creating a great work experience is critical to their success—and to yours as you seek to make your company stand out. But where to start? Here are some recommendations:
Look At The Long-Term And Make It Meaningful
First, take a long-term view. As one of my colleagues said recently, you’re not really offloading work, you’re just reallocating it. While your intern does work you or your team might have been doing, you’ll be spending time orienting, guiding and coaching them—that is, if you do it right. Be sure you’re giving your intern meaningful work that matters (more on that in this companion piece). Overall, think of your intern’s role in the long view. Their experience isn’t just for the summer, it’s really forever. You’re creating a reference point in their career—for better or worse. As the saying goes, “The hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that rules the world.” Shaping young talent has important impact.
Respect and value your intern’s perspectives and fresh ideas. Let them know their opinion matters. Even though they are new and untested, listen to your intern, ask them questions and trust their instincts. After all, they are your future customers, colleagues and perhaps even your future boss. (Also, word to the wise, don’t refer to them as “the intern.” While this may seem fun and light-hearted, it can be annoying and devaluing. Use their name.)
Give Them Enough To Do
Nothing is worse than sitting around with not enough to do. Be sure you’re keeping your intern appropriately busy. Interns say one of the biggest challenges with a summer role is how intense it can be. Rather than the ebb and flow of the college experience which can include all-nighters, but also the occasional midday nap, the typical 8am-5pm work day means being “always on.” This can be intense, but without enough to do, it can also be intensely boring. Be sure you’re providing enough to keep the intern appropriately work-loaded, so their days are full.
Include Them And Give Them Context
Interns want to learn about your company and the work of your industry. Be sure to include them. Invite them to meetings, have them participate on conference calls and make them part of your Friday office lunches. In addition to making them feel part of things, you’ll ensure they have context for their work. They’ll be more effective when they understand more of what’s going on around them and how their work fits into the work of your office and the company as a whole.
Pay Attention To The Little Things
Valuing and including your intern are big things, but also pay attention to the little things. If you have workstations provide one for them and put their name on the placard. Take a headshot for their future use and include them on your company’s website. If your company has tchotchkes, give them a logo water bottle or the branded beach towel. While these things seem insignificant, they all send messages you care and you’re attending to your intern’s experience.
Help Them Build Their Network
In addition to learning about the company and the job, interns also want to build their network. Suggest people they should get to know and make introductions for them. Set up lunches where they can learn from senior leaders in your business, and if you have a group of interns, plan events where they can get to know each other. Of course, interns can’t make networking their full-time job, they need to add value in the work they’re doing, but making connections is a big part of their success.
Teach Them New Skills
Interns want to learn your business, but they also benefit from learning additional skills. Offer them the chance to build applied knowledge in things like spread-sheeting, customer relationship management systems, making presentations or the like. One intern tells a story of working in a brokerage firm. Although she wouldn’t have to complete a lease deal during her summer tenure, her boss taught her how to execute one because she would need it for her long-term career. As you’re providing development opportunities for your intern, consider not just what they need to know for the job they’re doing this summer, but also for the career in which they have interest overall.
Coach Them And Their Team
Prepare the team members with whom the intern will be working, and also prepare the intern for the team. Ensure the team and the intern are clear about expectations and the nature of the work the intern will be accomplishing. Check in regularly with the team and the intern in order to provide coaching and feedback. One leader told a story about an internship that went terribly wrong for the intern and the team. The reason? Their communication styles were very different, and the failure could have been avoided if coaching and feedback had been available early in the process.
Being a mentor to your intern would be ideal. But even if you’re not seeking a full mentorship relationship, at least be accessible for questions and guidance your intern may need. Ensure they can come to you, but also take the initiative to check in with them regularly.
Ultimately, you’re investing in the future—both the intern’s and your own. You’re making an investment in young talent and you’re testing for the potential fit of a full-time employee. Plus, you’re adding to the pool of people who will have positive things to say about you and your company. You’ll stand out based on the great experience you provide.
NOTE: Want recommendations on how to create meaningful work for your intern? See this companion piece. Are you an intern? See this companion piece on how to be your most successful.
June 3, 2019 at 06:34AM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs