When you’re managing interns, you want to make sure the experience is beneficial to both the interns and the rest of the company.
So, what should an internship entail, exactly? How can you integrate these individuals into the company in a way that’s productive for everyone? Here are some approaches you can take to make sure your interns receive a valuable education and still provide a benefit for the rest of the company.
What Is an Internship?
An internship involves hiring students to work in a professional setting that’s relevant to their future career so they can gain experience and skills in the industry. These can be part-time or full-time jobs, and they might also provide class credit in accordance with the rules of the intern’s school. An internship can last weeks, months or even longer, and should follow all Department of Labor regulations. The internship job description should fully explain the role’s expectations and what the interns can expect to learn from the experience.
6 Tips for Managing Interns
There are many things you can do to ensure your interns are rewarded with great professional experience (and that their efforts benefit the entire organization). Here are six tips for managing these workers.
1. Take Recruiting Seriously
To set the right tone for your internship program, take the hiring process seriously. Interview applicants just like you would for any other job at your company. This means receiving applications and resumes first, then doing in-person interviews to make sure they’re a good fit. If you don’t take the application process seriously, your interns might not view the job seriously.
2. Include Interns in Meetings
Before an intern’s first day, hold an orientation session or training meeting to help them get used to the business and understand exactly what their job entails. You’ll also want to provide a developmental plan that discusses the intern’s experience, your expectations and the skills they’ll learn while working for you. On their first day, it’s a good idea to hold a welcome lunch so other people on staff can get to know the interns.
But don’t stop there. Include your interns in department and staff meetings, even if they don’t necessarily have a reason to be there. By sitting in on meetings, interns can get a better idea of how the business runs—and it might help them come up with creative ideas they can contribute.
3. Provide Mentors
Assign mentors and managers who will meet with interns on a weekly basis to give assignments, discuss progress and talk about goals. The internship should be a two-way process. Not only is the intern doing a job for you, but you should find out what the intern wants to learn and help them meet their own goals, as well.
4. Don’t Just Give Busywork
Sure, maybe one of your main needs is to find someone to make copies and run errands. But don’t make these errands your intern’s entire job. Give your interns meaningful work that truly contributes to the company.
If you have marketing or advertising interns, let them create an actual campaign within a predetermined budget. If you have legal interns, let them attend trials and write briefs that are actually used. Busywork by itself won’t fulfill your interns and it won’t fulfill your needs, either. Interns might surprise you by thinking outside the box and coming up with solutions you hadn’t considered.
5. Let Them Work Outside Predefined Roles
An internship can be a fun way to let a student experience other aspects of the business that they wouldn’t be able to experience as an entry-level employee. For example, let an accounting intern try out sales, or let a marketing intern shadow the CEO for a day. Interns can have a lot of untapped potential that might surprise you.
6. Conduct Surveys and Exit Interviews
Providing internship opportunities is a learning process, and you might not get everything correct the first time. Let your interns fill out surveys halfway through the internship, answering questions about the experience. Give them the opportunity to share what your program might be lacking. After the internship is over, conduct exit interviews to get feedback. But don’t just give exit interviews to your interns—also interview your employees and find out what parts of the program they would change.
Don’t underestimate your interns. Sure, it might be tempting to give them basic assignments since they don’t have business experience yet. But your interns might be very creative and have ideas you would never have considered. Give them a chance and take them seriously from the start.