Merge's Blog

Getting the best from your interns

Many organizations hire interns, young university or college students eager to take on a job in their area of study so that they can build up their work experience and resumes. It should be a win-win, because the organization gets a budget-friendly way to not only get some work done, but also try out new talent. But if recent conversations I’ve had are any indication, these so-called “win-win” internships don’t always go as well as either party had hoped. The companies discover that training interns is more time-consuming than they realized and not all these young people were as motivated as they’d expected. The interns feel that they just get asked to do work that no one else wants to do and so leave feeling unchallenged and unfulfilled.

This subject has come up often enough in conversations lately that I thought it would be worthwhile to lay out some specific tips on how to make the intern experience much more positive for all concerned. Here is my list of must-do’s.

  1. Create a specific job description that includes not only the no-one-else-wants-to-do-them tasks, but also responsibilities that will help your intern learn about your industry and expand their skill sets. A specific job description lets your intern know up-front that the job will be a balance of fun stuff and not-so-fun stuff!
  2. Make a list of training goals for the period that the intern will be with you. It doesn’t have to be long, but it not only establishes the expectations you have for the employee, but also shows them that you’re willing to invest in him or her.
  3. Keep an eye on your interns. Don’t forget that they’re young and inexperienced which means that they may veer off course without even knowing it. Step in to help as soon as you think they’re going in the wrong direction. Be sure to explain “why” – i.e. “I just want to make sure that you’re getting the most out of your internship experience.”
  4. Remember that your interns want to learn and build up their work experience, so motivate them by doing exactly that. Give them opportunities to learn, assign them to projects that will look great on their resumes, and offer them face time with company leaders.
  5. When all is said and done, if they’ve done good work, write them great letters of recommendation, or even better, offer them a job in your company upon graduation.

What do you have to add to this list? Jump in please with your experiences and insights, as a leader in a company, or as an intern.

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