The treatment of interns has made another periodic appearance in the media lately, as Facebook exec and Lean In author Sheryl Sandberg has come in for criticism for not paying her interns. (She’s since decided to reverse course). But the question of compensation isn’t the only component in the responsible and productive treatment of interns.
As August comes to a close, in offices across America there’s a massive migration afoot as interns shift from summer internships back to campus life or commence the search for full-time employment. As an employer you’re under no obligation to give them a permanent gig if you don’t have one available or they’re a bad fit for your business, but over on the Harvard Business Review blogs Jodi Glickman reminds business owners that you do owe them a helping hand getting a job if they put in hard work at your firm.
Glickman offers four actions bosses can take to give their departing summer interns a helping hand, using the real world cases of several interns to illustrate.
Open your Rolodex. The first thing Alex's manager did was give Alex a short list of high-quality names of friends and colleagues in the business. She encouraged her to reach out directly and use her name as a reference.
Make introductions. If you've got a stellar intern, why not reach out directly to colleagues or clients who you think might benefit from a bright and motivated new grad? Or invite your intern along for a working lunch or business meeting -; and sing her praises on the spot.
Write a stellar recommendation. Before you get caught up in life-after-interns, take time to sit down and document the great work your intern has done. Take note of both her individual accomplishments and her contributions to the team. You can also weigh in on her future potential.. And while you're at it, feel free to post a snippet of that recommendation on LinkedIn for the whole world to see.
Act as a mentor. Rena, a student at UCLA, spent her summer internship with a boutique financial services firm on the East Coast. She excelled in every way possible, but by the end of the summer she realized finance wasn't for her. Her boss Ken took the news in stride. He offered to stay in touch and told her to keep him in mind once she realized what she did want to do -; he'd be happy to help in any way possible. Three years later, Rena counts on Ken as one of her most trusted advisors.
For interns, the benefits of this sort of intervention are obvious, but why should bosses spend their valuable time helping out aside from simple human kindness (and the desire to avoid a Sandberg-style controversy)? Author and entrepreneur Ben Casnocha offered a rationale recently. Ex-interns (or any young, departed employee really) can be some of the strongest ambassadors for your employer brand -- and sources of horrible word-of-mouth if you mistreat them.
"Help employees develop transferable skills. Help them build the start-up of themselves. And be very explicit with new hires about the expectations," he wrote, suggesting you tell young employees of all types that, "When you leave, we expect you to be part of our corporate alumni group. We want you to be part of our corporate alumni network. We want you to help recruit new employees. We want you to be lifelong ambassadors and evangelists for our products and services."
When someone asks your summer intern about your company, what will they say?