10 Tips for Helping Your Intern Succeed

Gone are the days when interns only fetch coffee and make copies! For your sake and theirs, making an intern an integrated part of your team is the best use of their time with you. Not only are you helping an intern assess their interest in working with your company or in the industry, but interns can also breathe new life into work practices, projects, and ideas with fresh perspective! So here are 10 ways to make your time with an intern in your office successful.

1. Strategize

A little thoughtful preparation before your intern arrives goes a long way in getting off on the right foot! Create a structured job description, pull together key company reads, and draft a loose schedule of meetings, events, and key introductions for the first few days. Tip: Have a few industry publications or company products in hard copy form in the event they are unable to access the company system right away.

2. Engage

Be sure to engage with upper management and fellow colleagues about the details of your intern. Perhaps draft a quick email to remind your team of your intern’s term, including his or her resume and background. If schedules permit, ask for a brief check-in meeting with management to meet the intern and discuss the company’s goals. This initial meeting with senior employees can help set the tone, ensuring an interns feels part of the team.

3. Goal Set

Take time in the first few days to sit down and set a few mutual goals for the internship. Whether or not your company has a structured internship program, be sure you understand what your intern wants to get out of their time with your company and be clear about your expectations. Find opportunities for these shared objectives to overlap!

4. Project Plan

Instead of a summer spent job shadowing, take it a step further by planning for a few specific projects. Ask colleagues from different departments if there’s an objective they’d like help with (such as designing a new client brochure or getting a head start on quarterly invoicing). Again, an intern’s work should develop their skill set and advance your company’s goals. Remember, meaningful work is the best work!

5. Add Fun

Day one at any job can feel like the first day of school: Where do I sit? Who do I go to lunch with? Alleviate some of the stress by arranging lunch with your intern and a few colleagues at the start. When possible, consider scheduling an activity outside the office or a team happy hour to facilitate relationship building. A relaxed environment often creates the space for valuable conversations about personal goals and objectives.

6. Fundamentals First

When setting up your intern’s workload, remember that this might be the first time spent in an office or in a particular industry. Being fairly structured in your early time together can provide a helpful framework when everything feels new! Be detailed in your instructions and ask a lot of questions about your intern’s prior skillset. Your company’s technology, culture, and objectives may be new, so be sure to always start with the fundamentals.

7. Mentor

Mentoring your intern is so important! This may involve early career planning and basic skill building. For example, many interns may need assistance figuring out company language to summarize their time spent with you for their resume. Offer to help draft bullet points that help address the impact their work has had. Brainstorm together how you can best help your intern follow their career dreams.

8. Check-in

Set aside some time, however brief, to check in with your intern regularly regarding how her time and workload is going. Is she experiencing what she hoped? How is she feeling about workload? Weekly check-ins also give you an opportunity to provide incremental feedback so your intern can make the appropriate adjustments to be successful during her time.

9. Check-out

Your intern’s time with you should finish with concrete, constructive feedback (that goes both ways). In an out-brief, be sure you ask how your company can continue to improve the internship program. For an intern that gave an excellent performance, you might also use this time to talk about how they can turn their internship into a full-time job.

10. The Platinum Rule

Most importantly, remember the platinum rule when working with your new intern—treat them how they want to be treated. Know that because this work experience is new, an intern’s first few days with you will be exciting and a little scary! But you’re in a position to help create a memorable, successful experience so do your best to craft an optimal intern experience.

Have you managed an intern? How did you ensure it was a success?

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