There are many ways for a young adult to learn new skills and grow to become a real professional in their field. This can range from applying the experiences they learned in school to their profession, adapting to the changing climate of the current work atmosphere, and embracing new experiences. An internship at your workplace can easily become an experience that is mutually beneficial to you both. For your interest, you can improve your social strategy, bring fresh perspectives to your company, and even create smooth transitions into entry-level positions. But that’s only if you handle your leadership role effectively. Knowing how to manage interns will be critical to your benefits, and how much your intern learns.
Whether you are managing an intern for the first time, or have experienced hardships with handling an intern in the past, keep reading to learn how to get the most out of your interns and become a better leader in the process.
1. Make Your Intern Feel Welcome
Above all else, your intern should feel welcome, integrated, and useful while they are on the job.
Your intern should leave the first post-interview meeting knowing the values and goals of your business or organization. Also, you should leave the meeting with a good idea of their career goals, and have a better understanding of their strong suits.
Making someone feel like an integral part of your organization all comes down to how you manage them and the tasks you assign them (more on that later!). Your attitude when it comes to managing your intern is crucial. You always want to facilitate healthy communication by encouraging two-sided discussions, which can make your intern feel comfortable to ask questions and offer opinions.
For your intern’s first working day, just start by taking time for thorough training, and making sure they understand the general workflow of the organization, and if relevant, the department they’ll be working in. Afterward, you’ll want to outline goals, expectations, and projects that they will be working toward.
2. Structure Their Responsibilities
It’s surely convenient to have your intern do whatever odd jobs come up day-to-day, but to get the most out of your intern, you’ll want to have a clear plan for their jobs and responsibilities as they align with your organization.
A good way to prepare in advance is to write it all out. Start with a general description of their role in your business, and then move on to outline specific tasks. Doing this gives you both a reference point to look back on and make sure that the goals are being met.
You should have two objectives in mind when you present this job overview to your intern: manage expectations and set standards. You want a motivated intern, and definitive goals make that possible. Still, make sure to be reasonable; certain tasks may be a trial-and-error process for new workers in your field.
3. Don’t Assume to Know Their Skills or Knowledge
Even if you’ve done your best to make your intern feel comfortable in the workplace, some people are more shy than others. It’s a common feeling — to not ask questions out of fear for seeming incompetent.
To avoid any communication failures, make sure to introduce your interns into tasks and projects and monitor their progress. Afterward, check in with your intern; make sure they know how to do the tasks you’ve assigned them.
When it comes to check-ins with your intern, you’ll need to find the balance between being too hands-off and micromanaging. Every worker is different, but here are a few principles on managing a new intern:
- If they feel confident in their ability to get a task done, believe them.
- Ask if they need instruction on a certain objective before explaining.
- After giving instructions, ask if they have any questions.
- Make clear your expectations and deadlines.
- Check in periodically for project updates, but not to an overbearing extent.
Keep in mind — this may be your intern’s first job in the field, so you need to remember to be patient and give them time to adjust to the expectations of their role.
4. Give Them Real Jobs
Would you make someone you have on salary fix spreadsheets, clean up databases, and be a human copy machine? Probably, but those tasks definitely don’t comprise their main role in your business.
These mindless tasks shouldn’t be what take up most of your intern’s time either. Why?
- Your intern won’t learn much from making copies.
- They won’t be motivated.
- They will be less productive.
- You’re wasting their time.
Sure, these monotonous odd jobs need to get done, and there’s no problem with having your intern do them here and there. But overall, that shouldn’t be the sum of the work they’re doing, because then you’re serving everyone’s interests except their own.
Find real projects that they can work toward. It doesn’t have to be an independent project — they can help other employees with their projects.
You should already have a good idea of your intern’s strengths and aspirations at this point, so you can use what you know to delegate tasks that are a good fit for their future.
You can also just ask the open-ended question: “What else interests you?” “What do you care to learn about?”
From there, you can assign them tasks that fit the best interests of you both. It may likely be the case that you or an employee gives them further training, but the resources spent here will pay off when they help a project succeed.
Being a leader means bringing out the best from every member of your team. And only real jobs can show you the real value of your intern.
5. Have Them Work with Your Employees
Getting to know and collaborate with the professionals you’ve hired is a great benefit to your intern, and can make them more eager to help your organization.
Your voice shouldn’t be the only one your intern hears in the workplace. To really integrate your intern into the business, have them understand the other employees roles and responsibilities.
Doing this can also help you find new tasks and projects where your intern would be a strong supporter. You’ll be helping your intern network, helping them really understand the work environment, and making the day’s work run more smoothly at the same time.
6. Pay Your Interns
There’s a lot of debate when it comes to paying interns. You are offering experience, and hopefully giving your intern a nice resume boost. So why should you pay your interns? Let’s start by looking at the legality of not paying your intern.
If you want unpaid interns, there’s two stipulations: your organization can’t gain anything from their work, and the intern must learn new skills and opportunities that benefit them. So, unless you skid around the law (for ethical reasons, definitely don’t), your business won’t really benefit from an unpaid intern.
It very well may be the case that you find an intern willing to work without pay. Pay them anyway. You may initially think it’s a fair trade-off, almost charity, to give someone experience in a field of interest. But many interns are college students, and college is expensive. By offering unpaid internships, you’re only catering to the students who can afford to give up their time for free.
By paying interns, you reward work, you open up the field of potential applicants, and you’re legally allowed to benefit from your interns being in your business.
And finally, no one should become accustomed to the idea that they shouldn’t be getting paid for work just because they’re inexperienced.
7. Be a Mentor
Being someone your intern looks to for knowledge should be a top priority in your management strategy. If you’re having trouble figuring out what to teach them, ask yourself these questions:
- What were the most important lessons and skills you learned at that stage of your career?
- What do you wish someone else taught you early on?
- What would your intern benefit most from learning?
It all comes down to you yourself being responsive, and encouraging responses from them. Ask questions, answer questions, and promote two-sided conversations.
Mentorship also comes in the form of experience. If you have an upcoming meeting, it may be a good idea to have your intern sit in on it, and perhaps participate in the discussion. Growth opportunities are everywhere. Formal instructions, informal team meetings, learning soft skills like communication or technical skills involving some software. The growth opportunities are here for you as well. By managing an intern, you learn better how to delegate responsibilities, how to manage the inter-communication within your team, and grow to become a better leader of your organization.
Your intern’s experience in working for you can easily be a milestone in their path to a career. It’s in your best interest to help them grow so that they can more effectively contribute to your organization’s success.
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