Looking back on my career up until this point, some of the most important lessons I’ve learned were during my time as an intern. Although an internship is a cursory period of time in the grand scheme of things, those few months can be pivotal experiences and amazing growth opportunities for the individual.
From the perspective of a business owner, hiring an intern can be a huge benefit to your company and help distribute the workload for your paid employees. While the pros of hiring an intern are somewhat obvious, not many companies consider the reverse side of the internship. Why should this candidate want to intern with your company? What will they get out of the experience other than an extra line item on their resume?
This factor is so important to consider because while your intern’s time with your team may seem fleeting, they will leave with a lasting impression. If your company prides itself on being a destination for internships, it’s probably because you are taking the time to ensure your interns have a rewarding experience.
Ask What Their Goals Are
Do you remember being a college student? How good would it feel to have someone ask you about your dreams, rather than ask you to make a pot coffee? On day one, we dive deep and challenge our interns to tell us about what they are hoping to get out of their internship. This helps us assign them tasks that they will be excited about and directly relate to their personal goals. It also gives us an idea of what career path they are hoping to follow long-term, and whether they would be a good candidate for a full-time position. After that first day, we touch base with them monthly to catch up on how they’re doing and find out what they want to accomplish during the remainder of their time. Dedicating your time and serving as a role model in this way is a fantastic approach to building a relationship and acting as a stepping stone in their career.
Invite Them To Everything
We invite our interns to attend all meetings, seriously! We want them to be able to understand how each department in our company works and how they interact with each other to achieve the larger goals. Allowing interns to sit in on meetings immediately makes them feel like they are part of the team and gives them a sense of community. We are a united team and hope that our interns feel comfortable participating in meetings with their own fresh ideas or input. This opportunity will also prepare them for meetings where they play an active role in the future.
Mistakes happen. We’ve all made them and can probably remember the first big “oops” from when we were young in our careers. We try to foster an environment where our interns feel comfortable admitting to a mistake and learning from it, as opposed to striving for perfection. We also encourage asking questions on our Slack channels to create a space where the learning is ongoing. If you give your interns your trust, they will appreciate the level of responsibility.
Ask Them To Teach You Something
One of my favorite things is when an intern teaches me something! Many of our interns are taking classes in school that I could have only dreamed of when I was in college. Rather than being intimidated by their skill set, drop your ego and allow yourself to be the student. It’s a win-win because it makes them feel special and allows you to build upon your existing knowledge. Some of the best leaders are ones who keep an open mind and try to remain in a continued state of learning.
Don’t Assign Them Chores (But Do Watch if They Volunteer for Them)
Our interns do not do our dirty work. We intentionally avoid assigning them any stereotypical intern tasks that would ever make them feel like they are the bottom of the totem pole. However, one thing to keep an eye out for is the interns who volunteer to do these tasks on their own accord. I love when an intern takes ownership of washing coffee mugs or taking out the trash because it shows me that they are willing to roll their sleeves up and do the less-appealing tasks to support the team. If you do see them helping out, make sure you praise them for their act of kindness.
Take Them To Lunch
Throughout the internship, our top ranking bosses will take the interns out to a one-on-one lunch with no agenda other than getting to know them and giving them the chance to deliver feedback on how things are going. This gesture is huge because when the boss’ Gmail calendar usually doesn’t have more than a 15-minute gap between appointments, showing them that you care enough to give them your time can mean a great deal. I can still remember how exciting it was when the opportunity would arise to spend some valuable time with the “big bosses” during my internships. Learning from them in an informal setting was valuable and being treated to lunch was always a highlight that left me feeling motivated and supported.
Give Them Something to Walk Away With
When our interns leave us, we want them to walk out the door a great learning experience as well as tools that will help them in their future. We always write a shout out card with thank you notes from the team and we let them know we are willing to serve as a reference for job applications down the road. We ask them to keep in touch with our team and connect on social media. It’s also important to us that during the internship they produced some tangible work to use for a portfolio, such as writing blogs, creating infographics, or researching case studies. We also take a headshot of them for our website that they can use for future applications or their LinkedIn page (it’s always good to have a professional photo to balance whatever photos they were tagged in from college tailgates or formals).
Our end goal is to make sure that they got the most out of their time with us. In the same way that we all had role models who helped shape our career paths, we believe it’s important to pass the torch and make sure that our interns are developing skills that they can apply to a successful professional future.