More than Fetching Coffee: How to Build Great Internships

More than Fetching CoffeeWith summer intern season about to begin, I wanted to share helpful advice I’ve been reading about making internships truly beneficial for both interns and organizations. What you do to help interns succeed will impact them far beyond this summer. And their contributions can make a real difference to your operations.

Start Off On the Right Foot

“On the first day of the job, an intern is most likely going to feel a little nervous and maybe even out of place. Nothing helps them relax more than a couple of friendly employees. A couple friends in the office will reduce their stress, and allow the interns to work efficiently on their tasks without feeling like all eyes are on them. ‘From day one, senior leadership needs to make young talent feel welcome, by being accessible, dedicating specific time and making it clear that they are an important a part of your organization,’ said Hank Ostholthoff, CEO of Mabbly.” —  Read more at Inc.

Frequent Check-ins Are the Key To Success

“The biggest challenge when managing an intern is ensuring that you make time to review their work regularly and provide feedback to them. They’ll get demoralized if you go weeks without evaluating their submissions, because it will seem like “make-work” projects that don’t have any bearing on your professional success. (Not to mention the possibility that they could go down the wrong path and spend hours pursuing an angle that you don’t find fruitful.) Instead, set regular check-ins — at least weekly, but sometimes even more frequent, depending on the tasks and how much time they’re putting in.” —  Read more at Entrepreneur.

Think Beyond the Office

“Encourage interns to build relationships with staff members – they’ll prove beneficial when it’s time to job-hunt, whether it’s at your organization or elsewhere. Take them to networking events outside the office, and introduce them to your peers at other groups who can help them along their journey.”  —  Read more

Fine-Tune Your Delegation Skills

“Think through some valuable projects [your intern] can take on—even if it’s just a piece of a larger project. Try to assign her tasks that relate to her career goals or her strengths, or ask what she’s interested in learning more about and give her something in that vein. Beyond the benefit of having some help for your job, finding substantive tasks for your intern to take on provides you a great opportunity to learn how to delegate. Remember that being a leader doesn’t mean doing everything yourself—it means empowering others and bringing out their talents.” —  Read more at The Muse.

A Smart Send-Off Can Help Them and You

“Chances are your interns have had a great experience working for your company, so it is crucial that their offboarding experience is just as memorable. Don’t send them off feeling iffy about the whole internship experience. … Sit down with your interns to go over their experience as a whole. Ask them what they’ve learned and what they feel they can now offer to future jobs and experiences. … To benefit your company, create an offboarding survey that each intern fills out on their last day. It will help you understand what your company does well and what can be improved for future internship programs.” —  Read more

Managers, I’d love to hear what you’ve learned about managing interns. What advice would you give other leaders? Please share below in the comments.

Lindsey Pollak is the leading voice on millennials in the workplace, trusted by global companies, universities, the world’s top media outlets — and, most importantly, by millennials themselves. A New York Times bestselling author, Lindsey began her career as a dorm RA in college and has been mentoring millennials — and explaining them to other generations — ever since. Her keynote speeches have audiences so engaged that, in the words of one attendee, “I didn’t check my phone once!” Contact Lindsey to discuss a speaking engagement for your organization.

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11 Responses

  1. Delegating the right kind of work to interns is incredibly important from my experience. I’m glad you brought that up. You don’t want to give them too much or too difficult of work where they’re over their heads, but you also don’t want to give them busy work or coffee runs that make them feel like they’re useless. Balance is the key here!

  2. I really enjoyed your article. I am a fellow millennial looking to make a big impact with many organizations. Your expertise aids with those seeking out individuals such as myself. I look forward to one day meeting you!

  3. Creating a welcoming and inclusive environment is key to nurturing a meaningful relationship with interns and creating a valuable experience for both parties. If interns do not feel comfortable in the workplace, they will not perform their best work and will be afraid to ask questions that are needed for them to be successful in the workplace. Starting off on the right foot will lead to profitable results during the internship. Thanks for sharing! Wishing you the best on your presentation at the Forte MBA Conference!

  4. Interns can also provide you with great feedback on the culture of the organisation! They might experience your business for the first time. And as first timers, they see things with a ‘fresh pair of eyes’. So ask them for feedback! They might provide a completely different perspective which the business can benefit from.

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