Have interns? I’m guessing that quite a few may have walked through your doors this month. Now, let me pose another vital question: Do you really know what to do with them? (If you’ve ever been stuck in an internship collating reports and getting coffee, you know to what I am referring.) We can do quite a bit to maximize the internship experience. So — let’s do everything we can to make this a positive, career-energizing stint.
Here are some pointers:
- Keep things real. Ideally, the tasks that your interns complete should be similar to those that would be performed in a full-time entry-level capacity (think relevance and complexity). While there will be obvious differences in terms of level of required supervision — tasks should represent the type of work that would be experienced post-internship. Of course, this helps facilitate a smooth transition from academic life to career life.
- Offer a broadened perspective of work. Assigning portions of a project piecemeal, with little information concerning how the work fits into the larger picture, does not a permanent employee make. Ensure that interns gain a realistic understanding of the all aspects of your work, including the inter-relationships of project components, client considerations and other business-side elements.
- Discuss goals. Interns certainly offer a needed set of “helping hands” to your employee roster. However, don’t neglect to schedule that all-important meet-up to discuss their personal learning objectives. (Yes, interns do have opinions concerning why they are with you and what they would like to accomplish). Set the summer on the right foot — and let them know the working relationship is indeed a two-way street.
- Pick their brains. How long have you been away from an academic setting? Your interns are a well-spring of information concerning new techniques, recent research, case studies and strategies. Inquire as to what caught their attention and have a discussion on how they might share their insights with the larger team. This process builds self-esteem and confidence.
- Don’t underestimate them: Ramp up challenge. Ascribe to a “stair-step” strategy with regard to the assignment difficulty. Note how they handle autonomy and challenge, increasing these as time and ability allow. No intern dreams of being “stuck in neutral” — and truth be told, you’ll be wasting valuable manpower.
- Teach networking as a defined skill. Not the easiest of skills to master in the real world — interns are in a great position to start a solid networking base. (Yes, your 20’s are important with regard to work and career. ) We know that students that complete internships are more likely to use informal job sources to find work and are more likely to be satisfied with extrinsic rewards, such as salary.
What strategies are you utilizing to to maximize the internship experience? Share them here.
Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist, consultant and speaker. The Office Blend, has been recognized by Forbes as one of their “Top 100 Websites for Your Career” in both 2012 and 2013.