Our two summer interns started last week. We are a small company and feel vulnerable every time we bring someone into our little nucleus and open our business up to them.
When an intern starts working with you for just a short two or three month period, how do you get the most out of them? It’s scary to trust someone with almost no experience to speak to your clients, work on your presentations, or to conduct quality research. However, interns are an amazing source of fresh perspective, unique skills, and hard work, if you properly set them up for success.
Here is how you can ensure that you get the most out of your intern, and that your intern learns and grows from the experience.
Show them the big picture
It is easy to give an intern a specific set of instructions and to keep their work focused on the details (update this spreadsheet, reorganize this deck). However, if you can educate them on the overall mission of your group or company, they will be able to be more intuitive in their approach and ultimately deliver a product more tailored to you.
Gage their experience, and ask them what they want to learn this summer
Showing your interns that you want them to learn and to grow during their time with you, allows them to feel valued and ultimately motivates them to do a great job. Having in depth conversations about your intern’s previous experience and hard skills as you begin to work with them will help you best optimize their skillset. This does two things: one, it helps maximize their strengths and two, it helps identify weaknesses so that supplemental work can be assigned to them in order to build upon these skills, which they’ll appreciate. Your intern is a highly talented individual and isn’t interested in just bringing you coffee, ordering you lunch, and sorting your files. Use your intern to his/her greatest capabilities by putting an emphasis on their learning.
Explain to them the culture of the firm--they don’t have time or the experience to figure it out
This is a big one for me. The culture of our firm is to over communicate. We let each other know what we are working on and the progress we have made almost hourly. If an email is sent, the culture of our firm is to reply “got it and working on it.” Our interns can't possibly know this, unless we tell them. The more you can guide your interns to understand the culture of the organization the quicker both you and your intern can determine if this partnership is both investing in for the long haul.
Be specific with deadlines and needs of projects
If you want things done, set deadlines and give instructions. If you are too general and broad with the instructions to your intern, they won’t be clear on how to tackle a project. It will most likely take your intern longer to complete their project, and the results won’t be to your liking.
Empower them to share their opinions and ideas for how to make things better
Many interns believe that since they are new, lack experience and are still in college, they shouldn’t offer their opinion on how to change things up. If you empower your interns to speak up and point out things that can be done differently, you will have an opportunity to learn something new and make improvements to your business. Companies hire expensive consultants to take a look at the company from the outside and offer advice. Why not see your interns as consultants and encourage them to make a lasting impact?