Welcoming interns into your organization can provide a boon both to the business’ bottom line and the intern’s professional trajectory, so it’s important that you and your colleagues understand how to be a good mentor to these workers. Oftentimes, it extends beyond the internship itself.
You may think that your responsibility to interns ends when the internship period ends, but the best internship programs play a role far beyond the end date. During their time at your company, it’s a good idea to set up tasks and projects that will benefit them in future school and work settings. Then, after they’ve left, you should devote time and energy to continuing to provide them with valuable guidance.
Here are a few ways you can help prepare your interns for their professional lives, even after the internship is over.
Assign Important Projects
Assigning interns to important projects can provide them with valuable skills needed for their future jobs—so don’t saddle them solely with busywork! Instead, when they first come on board, schedule a meeting and talk about their future career goals. You can then work to assign them tasks that align with those goals, ones which will help them build the skills they’re interested in honing.
Consider giving your interns projects that allow for independence and autonomy so they can discover how to use their natural creativity and instincts. Include them in brainstorming sessions, trade shows and client meetings. And consider giving them assignments to write, projects to code or interviews to lead.
Additionally, it’s important to always keep the lines of communication open. Each week, mentors should ask their mentees to honestly assess how they feel about the program and the skills they’re developing. If changes are needed, you can put action plans in place.
Help Them With Their Future Portfolio
Assigning interns to important projects won’t just provide them with experience, it can give them examples that can be included in an online portfolio or listed on a resume. For instance, interns should leave a television news program with a reel of clips (even if those clips weren’t used in broadcasts) and interns at a marketing or PR firm should leave with examples of press releases and stories they can share later.
You can also include workshops during the internship that are geared toward helping interns get ready for the outside world. These workshops might cover topics like negotiating a salary, writing a resume or building a professional network.
Be the Best Reference Possible
Writing a detailed recommendation when the internship is ending—and giving the intern a copy—can show them that you’re willing to be a great future reference. Include specific accomplishments and why you believe your mentee would be an asset to a future company. Also, keep it on file in case they need it again, later down the line. Don’t forget to connect with them on LinkedIn and recommend them on there, too.
Interns can gain more from their experience if they have a chance to reflect on it with a mentor afterward. It’s a good idea to schedule a meeting with your mentee, whether online or offline, at the end of the internship (or even a month later) to talk about what they learned about the job and themselves. During this time, you can ask questions like how the experience was different from what they expected, how their career plans may have changed because of the experience and what skills they acquired. You can also ask these questions through open-ended surveys.
Continue to Be a Resource
Make sure your interns know that you’re available by email or phone to answer questions or to help with their job search. But don’t be passive about helping! Suggest them to colleagues and friends at other companies who might want to hire them. If you have a truly great intern, advocate for hiring them at your company when they’re done with their schooling.
Additionally, if you’re part of a professional network, whether offline or online, offer to add your mentee to the group. Invite them to business luncheons and networking meetings after the internship is over.
Remember, you were once in their shoes. So when you’re grappling with how to be a good mentor, think of things you wish you had gotten out of your internships, and let that guide you—but also make a point to be there should they ever need you later on.
If interns have a great experience, they’re likely to recommend your company to others. Curious to learn of other ways you and your colleagues can benefit from their assistance? Check out the Employer Toolkit on United Concordia Dental’s website.