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The 5 Worst Tasks for Your Intern

Contrary to what many companies may think, an intern is more than a source of free labor.
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While you may not payyour intern cash, you should certainly paythem in your time and effort it takes to create a meaningful experience. Well before offering internships, you should have an internship program in place complete with a manager who's always available to facilitate the program.

Having an intern isn't easy, and in many cases you might think it's more trouble than it's worth. Every internship (and intern) is different, but there are some basics no matter what the industry that you should avoid. There are stereotypical intern tasks for a reason: A large number of businesses and internship managers ask interns to do them. To form a solid internship foundation, make sure you avoid these common intern tasks:

1. Get coffee

This is perhaps the most stereotypical of all intern tasks. But guess what? Everyone can get their own coffee. An intern is not an assistant, nor are they a go-fer to make everyone else's life easier. No matter what the task, ask yourself if it's a valuable learning experience. While some people argue that basic tasks and humility or "starting from the bottom rung" is valuable, that's usually a pretty weak excuse.

2. Make copies all day every day

Making copies is a boring task nobody wants to do, but that doesn't mean it's automatically intern territory. Yes, it's important to know how to work the most common of office tasks. But no oneneeds to do it for three or more hours per day to master it. Let them learn other and more valuable tasks.

3. Work beyond the agreed hours

The internship agreement should specifically state the hours the intern will be working, and if it's for an internship that's based on events (where hours can get crazy) make sure that's stated. Interns know they're at the bottom of the totem pole, and many won't speak up for their own rights. It's easy to take advantage of them. Don't.

Neil Patel, who has hired dozens of interns, says "whether you are offering a free or paid internship it's important to not overwork your interns. If you do, you will quickly find out that they are going to get burned out, feel overwhelmed, and they won't learn too much. The key to a successful internship is to get work done for your company, and to educate the intern. It's a two-way street, so make sure you aren't overworking your interns or else they feel overwhelmed and won't learn as much."

4. Anything you haven't taught them

It doesn't matter what their resume says or what you "think they can handle." If you haven't taught your intern a specific skill, don't expect them to be able to do it. They may not tell you when they feel overwhelmed, and it's your job to make sure you match tasks to abilities.

5. Improvement without anyfeedback

An intern is alearning experience for everyone involved--including you and every other employee at the office. Your intern needs regular feedback with plenty of positive encouragement in order to improve and make the most of the experience. If you're silent, don't assume your intern knows what that means. Communicate.

Before welcoming an intern, work with a pro to make sure you have a well designed program. Otherwise, there's no telling what may happen.

Bil Brauer, Marketing Specialist at Spiceworks, says "No matter how busy you are, it's imperative to set aside time to meet individually with your interns. Our interns are extremely bright and bring huge value to Spiceworks, but it's our responsibility to deliver even greater value back to them to help set them down a path of awesomeness." And one sure way to set them down that path is to bean awesome boss.

Last updated: Jul 29, 2014

DREW HENDRICKS | Columnist

Drew Hendricks is a tech, social-media, and environmental addict. He's written for many major publications, such as Forbes and Entrepreneur.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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