When a company needs more workforce than they have, inevitably someone suggests hiring an intern. But to be successful, an intern must be more than a mere stop-gap for keeping filing systems organized, running everyday errands or being absorbed by busy work. A thriving internship requires both parties to enter the agreement with a clear understanding of what to expect so that neither one’s needs go unmet.
Here are five suggestions for ensuring your company’s intern program becomes all that it can and should be.
1. Communicate expectations clearly
Make it a priority to define your intern’s role. At the start of the internship, let your intern know the job description, your expectations, the reporting system and any learning goals. Also be sure to spend time discussing hours and the issue of payment. If the internship is unpaid, remind the intern that what he or she doesn’t see in dollars, will be made up for in experience, connections and — if the case may be — future opportunities for employment with your company should the internship experience prove to be particularly successful. But don’t just stop at your own expectations — allow the intern to communicate what he or she hopes to gain from the position. Failure to have a meeting of the minds from the outset will inevitably lead to frustration on both sides.
2. Give them real projects
Gone are the days when internships simply meant getting coffee and picking up dry-cleaning. Today, the objective is to give the intern industry knowledge and real hands-on work experience. Avoid the trapping of saddling the intern with busy work that teaches little to nothing. Ideally, you should start your new intern off with a smaller project to get his or her feet wet before moving to more challenging tasks. But whether the work is easy or strenuous, be sure it utilizes and expands a skill set while also teaching tricks of the trade.
3. Take time for training
Don’t throw your intern into the maelstrom and hope for the best. Make training a priority. Whether it’s with you or a designated supervisor, go over the skill set needed to complete the jobs assigned and review company protocol. This could include dress code and phone etiquette, for instance. It also may mean walking the intern through a computer system or explaining a software program that isn’t familiar. Instead of giving into the temptation to rush the training to get to the project, take the needed time to ensure your intern is up to speed. It will save time re-explaining in the long run.
4. Have a feedback system
You may not have time personally to be your company’s intern supervisor, but it’s essential that the role be assigned to someone with authority who can provide ongoing, constructive feedback. Be sure to schedule review sessions every two to three weeks that include the opportunity for questions, performance evaluation and correction, if needed. Ensure ample time to supportively address concerns that arise on either party’s end. Such an arrangement is mutually beneficial because it provides the intern guidance and support, while ensuring that company standards are thoroughly met.
5. Build in mentorship and recognition
In addition to keeping tabs on progress and answering questions that arise, the supervisor — or other appointed person — should take on a mentorship role. This individual offers instruction and models what a career at your company looks like. In the age of the millennial worker, who highly values engagement, fulfillment and recognition, it’s essential to build a relational component into the internship. Take care to call out special achievements or accomplishments of interns when opportunities are presented. Setting these processes and relationships in place bolsters both parties. Should your company decide to hire one or more of its interns once the program ends, you’ll be starting off with an enthusiastic employee, whose loyalty has been fostered through a quality workplace relationship.
About the Author
Stacey Kole is a principal director at Branded, a personal and small business branding agency. A former magazine editor and published author, she currently contributes to the online editions of several publications. She is the Executive Director of a nonprofit organization, working to build scholarship funds for young women in the state of Arizona.
All content provided herein is for educational purposes only. It is provided “as is” and neither the author nor Office Depot, Inc. warrant the accuracy of the information provided, nor do they assume any responsibility for errors, omissions or contrary interpretation of the subject matter herein.
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