An intern is a tricky animal. Not quite a volunteer, not quite an employee, interns are part benefit, part major responsibility for the employers who take them on.
The key to a successful internship, for the employer, is to keep interns engaged in productive, educational tasks that further the mission of the organization. It’s a tall order, but one that results both in a legitimate resume building experience for the intern and a valuable mentorship experience for you.
Here are some tips for building an excellent learning experience while maintaining engagement and interest along the way.
- Have a task list prepared. The list should be more than the day’s duties. It should encompass several shorter tasks as well as some longer-term projects, which are what your intern should pick up when she’s done with the little stuff. Whatever isn’t completed today rolls over to tomorrow, and something should always roll over. Make a concrete, complete list of work, and you’ll incentivize your intern to keep at it rather than falling back on Facebook.
- Take your intern along. Got an important lunch meeting? An HR matter to handle? A tough customer to deal with? Let your intern sit in. Stressful moments for you are learning opportunities for him. It’s okay to toss out a quick “this is a sit and listen event, so just observe,” before getting started, and make sure to explain to other parties that your intern is there to observe and learn.
- Use your intern’s youth and inexperience to your advantage. Have your intern evaluate your website, social media presence, and marketing efforts. Ask for her perspective as a young person, and have her write up a report with suggestions based on market research. Remember that youthful perspective is important for progression in business, and tell your intern as much.
Remember that your intern is inexperienced and may make mistakes along the way, and be patient. Mix positive feedback with constructive criticism, offer opportunities to observe new and interesting things, and provide real work where possible. Above all: Keep. Interns. Busy. With these tips in mind, enjoy your experience as a supervisor, and know you’re making a real impact on a newly minted professional!