Students want to intern at startups because of the fast-paced environment, opportunity to tackle real projects, and potential for making an impact. At the same time, the quickly changing nature of startups can make managing interns a challenge. Here are a few best practices we have found in talking to hundreds of startups about managing their interns and ideas we employ with our interns at InternMatch:

1.) Meet with the intern over coffee (or other tasty beverage) at least once a week to discuss the big picture.

During this meeting you should share your company goals and let the student know how their work fits in. This helps them organically learn about fundraising, product development, and parts of the company they may not be working on and understand why their work matters, which is one of the reasons they chose to work at a startup in the first place.

This type of regular updating and communication can be a big time saver in the long run, as you can get a feel for how well the intern understands their projects and give quick advice to help them work out new challenges.

2.) Offer workshops.

Something that is unique about a startup is that the founding team and other early members tend to be experts in a variety of areas. Hosting occasional internal workshops on software or other skills ranging from Hootsuite to Ruby on Rails can accelerate your interns’ learning curves and empower them to excel on different projects.

3.) Bring them to adviser meetings.

Startups tend to get advice from really cool people. Letting your interns listen in and get to meet these individuals is a powerful added benefit that is not found at bigger corporate jobs.

4.) Carve out larger projects, but set deadlines for individual pieces to be submitted on a schedule.

Having a large project that is entirely owned by the intern helps them build skills and industry knowledge that feed towards a valuable end product. At the same time, interns learn and improve most quickly through rapid feedback that comes from submitting drafts and being critiqued. Because of this, big projects with smaller benchmarks and goals tend to work best.

5.) Make it fun!

One of the challenges a startup faces compared to bigger companies is lacking the size to throw big events or other similar activities. That being said, startups tend to go to plenty of networking events, speaking events, and more. Even if it costs a few bucks, be sure to sign interns up for such events to expose them to the startup community. This goes a long way in helping them feel like they got a deep internship experience, and happy interns are easier to manage.

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Published on: Jul 23, 2015