It’s intern season again! As employers, we have to figure out how these new and temporary employees can best fit within our businesses, and, more importantly, how we can all make the most of our limited time together. We make a point of taking on one or two interns every year, and to work closely with them. Here's how we've been getting the most out of these relationships.
1. Treat the interns as part of the team
If your company has regular team bonding activities or networking events, make sure to include your interns. Let them sit in on weekly team and business meetings, when appropriate. They can learn a lot about business by just being an attendee.
Whenever possible, we try to treat our interns the same as we do our full-time employees. That means we expect them to contribute ideas, but we also include them when celebrate big wins and company milestones. The more the interns feel connected to your company and appreciated, the better their work will be.
2. Use them as more than just gofers
If you need someone to make you coffee, buy a Keurig machine. Viewing interns as menial labor doesn’t help you get the most out of these talented young people. Assign tasks they can learn from, and help them grow. Try having an intern brainstorm ideas for a new proposal or tackle a long-term challenge that you haven’t had the time to address. You’ll get a fresh perspective and you might be able to check an item off your to-do list. The intern will learn.
3. Listen to their perspectives for market insights
Interns see the world much differently than you do. For many businesses, interns and their peers are also a key demographic. Ask them lots of questions and ask for their feedback on relevant projects. They may help you solve a problem you didn’t even know existed.
4. Take time to give feedback
It’s important to coach and mentor interns. While it may be faster to finish a poorly completed task yourself, spending the time to teach your intern how to do a project thoroughly will help them grow and will enable them to take meaningful items off of your plate in the future. Making the extra effort to help an intern will make it easier to assign additional work to them down the line. And you’ll be contributing to the future career of someone who’s invested in your company.
5. Explain the importance of their work
This year, our intern has been focused on pulling, creating and refining large database lists for our sales and marketing teams. You could see this as tedious, but in truth the intern is learning how to work with large data sets, identify trends and patterns, and produce a final document that’s incredibly valuable. While it may not be the most glamorous job, it is immensely important, and his efforts have added meaningful value to the company. By taking the time to explain how his work impacts the company’s bottom line, we’ve helped our intern understand the rationale for his work as well as its importance and value to the organization.
6. Recognize today’s interns as tomorrow’s employees
Your interns are there to learn, but in many cases, a summer opportunity leads to a longer-term job. Summer is an ideal time to evaluate someone’s potential as a future addition to your team--to learn about their personality firsthand while seeing how they mesh with the rest of your team. By Labor Day you will know if there’s a spot for them or not.