Employer internship guides

Ten Tips to Effectively Manage Interns

Brown_arrow_21 Written by Nathan Parcells on Nov 14, 2011

Let’s be honest, whether you just hired your first intern, or are running a large internship program, you’re probably a little bit nervous that your new student employees are going to be tough to manage and a potential for distraction.

This is one of the primary concerns intern hirers face, and while some resolve this discomfort by assigning work so easy it requires no management at all (from filing papers to made up projects) this approach assures your program will be a waste.

Having spoken to thousands of employers on this subject, we have found that those who develop a process to effectively manage their interns, get more value from their program and do a better job of converting interns into full-time employees.

These 10 tips offer simple actions every employer can and should take with their interns, which will help ensure that both the students and your company get the most out of working together.

1.) Should I even have an internship program?

Before deciding whether or not to hire interns, all companies need to talk internally and make sure you are recruiting students for the right reasons. Do you have certain short-term projects where a student could be an asset? Do you hire a lot of college students and can you convert some of your most proven interns into hires? Ultimately you need to have a goal in mind as you go about hiring inters, because even as a temporary role this is a big commitment.

2.) Assign the intern a single manager, who enjoys working with students.

This is huge! Students can accomplish big goals when given the right amount of guidance. But, they are new to the work-world and your industry, and so if thrown out to see and told to start paddling they won’t know what your expectations are or where to start. Ultimately, you want to find someone on your staff, who enjoys sharing his or her expertise with young people, and is going to be committed to helping the interns.

3.) Make sure the intern has a dedicated project.

How many projects have you had sitting on the back burner without the proper bandwidth to do the job right? Assigning an intern, an overarching internship project helps them learn more quickly, keeps them focused, and means that they can provide a culminating final project that adds a lot of value to your company. One expert tip we advise is to assign, a smaller, more manageable project at the onset of the internship to help you gauge the intern’s strengths and weaknesses.

4.) Meet for coffee once a week.

This is a simple task that can make managing your interns much more efficient. By meeting for a casual 30 minute to one hour conversation every week, you can assign objectives, answer questions and help your interns move forward in their projects with confidence.

5.) Set quantifiable weekly goals for the intern.

This is a management best practice and extra important for interns. Interns need to have clear project goals and you need regular benchmarks to see how they are performing in order to help them improve.

6.) Break assignments into small tasks, and review drafts early.

Don’t assign an intern project due in a month. Interns are new to the professional world, so by having them complete drafts lets you point them in new directions, before going down a wrong road.

7.) Share the big picture of how the company is doing and how they are contributing.

Interns are curious about the industry they are working in and want to know how the company is doing. By sharing some insight on the bigger picture and how their projects fit in they can bridge this knowledge gap and will be more motivated to deliver great results.

8.) Encourage your interns to ask questions.

Interns may not know proper question asking etiquette. If you are the intern’s manager, let them know that they can ask you questions as this can save a lot of time in the long run.

9.) Offer intern compensation in the form of software training, introductions to co-workers, and education about the field.

Some employers may not be able to pay huge sums of money to their student interns, while others can. However, many of the best forms of compensation are free. Teach your interns the tools of your trade, whether that is Microsoft Excel, Salesforce, HootSuite, or nuanced email tactics. These are invaluable skills that you have accumulated and that can’t be learned in school. This knowledge is worth its weight in gold to ambitious students. Another simple value add you can offer is to recommend books, bloggers, or other information sources that students can read up on to become more versed in the field, and become a stronger applicant in the future.

10.) Have Fun!

Having great interns at your office can and should be a lot of fun. These students come into the office for the first time, with big ideas, and big goals and they will grow a tremendous amount of the course of your internship. They also come with new ways of thinking and will add an exciting dynamic to your office for however long you are there.

Cover image provided by lodge28 under the Creative Commons license

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