Are you working with interns in your organization? In this guide, we share tips on how to effectively train and manage interns so that you can provide a valuable experience for them and your organization at the same time.
Why Should You Work With Interns?
What’s the benefit of establishing an internship program in your organization?Working with interns is a mutually beneficial arrangement, especially in today’s competitive job market. Here's why: Click To Tweet
Working with interns is a mutually beneficial arrangement, especially in today’s competitive job market. If you want to hire the best, you must find the best. And a great way to discover the best new talent is through an internship program. For many organizations, internships are now considered extended job interviews. This temporary work arrangement allows organizations to test out potential employees while also introducing them to the requirements of the job. An organization can spot and acquire new talent as the person is just starting out on their career.
From the intern’s perspective, they can learn a lot and gain hands-on experience which can’t be duplicated in school or other scenarios. The intern may also hope to get a job with the organization at the end of their internship.
Through an internship, you can influence your intern’s perception of the job, your company, and the industry at large.
How Do You Effectively Manage Interns?
Now that we’ve highlighted the benefits of working with interns, let’s discuss how to create an effective internship program at your organization.
Start Off on the Right Path
Before your internship program begins, prepare a plan for your intern’s time with your organization. This way, both you and your intern will have a fruitful experience. As Abraham Lincoln once famously said, “The best way to predict your future is to create it.”
It’s important to remember that interns are new to the industry, and they’re also new to your organization. As they get on-the-job training, they’ll learn more about your industry. But, in order to set them up for success, you need to properly introduce them to your organization from the beginning. This way, they don’t have to awkwardly figure out how things work in your organization. You’ll simply tell them.
At the beginning of your internship, build in an introductory period where you plan to do the following:
- Explain who you are as an organization
- Share your vision, mission, culture
- Show them around your office, especially where they’ll work and take breaks
- Show them around the other parts of the office, including other departments
- Explain in broad terms what everyone in your office does, such as their job duties and how their duties impact the rest of the organization
- Go over the rules of your workplace by providing a policy handbook
- Share communication expectations, such as how do you prefer to communicate in your office (whether it’s through email, Slack, text message, or some other form)
Being clear about all of the above is essential for the success of your internship. You can avoid frustration and embarrassment for all parties involved by simply setting expectations and explaining who, what, when, where, and why.
Prepare Your Staff
In addition to preparing a formal introduction program for your interns, ready your current staff for their upcoming arrival. Tell them about your internship program. Make them aware of when your internship will begin and what you expect to happen. Your staff should also be prepared to act as mentors, even if only indirectly. Your interns won’t just observe their direct supervisors. They’ll also pay attention to the attitudes and actions of those whom they work alongside. Everyone on staff may need to step into an advisor role at some point during the internship, and they need to be prepared for it.
Coming into your program, your intern should have two goals that you can help them set. The first goal is the short-term one. What is the expected outcome at the end of your internship whether it’s one month, three months, six months, or longer? You can help your intern identify the top learning objectives they may have at the start of their internship. This can help you better customize your internship program to set them up for success.
The second goal is the long-term one. What career path is the intern looking for and is your organization a part of that journey? This is a question neither you nor your intern may know until the end of the program after they’ve gotten a chance to get experience and broaden their skillset. But it’s important that you already have those questions in your mind at the start.
Work together with the intern to create a list of realistic goals that you can both work towards. At the end of the program, you can analyze these goals to determine if you met or missed the mark.
Assess the Intern’s Skills
Depending on your program, you may accept interns with a wide range of skills. Some may be qualified to work alongside your employees and others will need more support as they put their book knowledge into real-life practice.
It’s essential that you assess your intern’s skill set prior to finalizing their workload. This way you won’t overload your intern with too much work or fail to challenge them by giving them tasks that they can easily do.
Set Up Learning Experiences
Depending on your goals, create experiences that will give your intern an opportunity to grow. Ensure that your intern can shadow different people in your organization to get a good idea of how your teams work together towards a common goal. Even if that role isn’t part of the intern’s career path, the experience of cross-training with different team members will help them gain an appreciation for everyone’s role.
Choose projects that align with the intern’s career objectives in both the short and long term. These projects can help them gain immediate skills for a job that they may start after the internship, and also set them on the right trajectory.
Give Them Daily Tasks
When assigning a job to your intern, break it down into a daily checklist. This way, the intern won’t feel overwhelmed with what they need to do. They can just chip away at their tasks, one step at a time.
Start off with a light workload. You’ll continuously assess the intern throughout their time with you. As they become more capable of doing the tasks that you’ve assigned, you can add more to their daily checklist.
Equip the Intern
In addition to preparing your staff and your learning experiences, be sure to give your interns the resources that they need to effectively complete their tasks. This includes office supplies, such as notebooks, pens, and clipboards. You may also find it helpful to assign workstations to each intern so that there’s no confusion about who’s sitting where.
Other practical resources to provide your intern include a map of the office, a list of logins for your internet, network, and workstations, and a new employee handbook tailored specifically for interns that explains company policies. Also, don’t assume that the intern may already know a technology. Be prepared to thoroughly explain the task ahead of time and to give them a quick primer on all of the tech tools you use in your office.
Conduct Regular Check-Ins
One of the best ways to ensure the success of your internship program is to check in with your interns regularly. Aim for two types of check-ins.
The first is a daily temperature check where you ask the intern how their day went and probe for any questions. You can also take this time to brief them on what they’ll be doing on the next workday.
The second check-in is a weekly one where you have a longer conversation about their experience. Ask them to assess what they’ve learned. Encourage them to provide honest feedback. The goal of this check-in is to ensure that you’re still on track to meet the goals that you set at the start of the internship.
Creating the best internship experience starts with lots of preparation. But once you set up a system that works well, you’ll be able to reap all of the benefits that come with implementing an internship program at your organization.
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