Bringing on an intern can be a great way to get the extra help you need now while finding potential hires for tomorrow. What’s your best advice for taking on your first intern, and why?
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1. Ensure You Have Time to Help Them
Make sure you have projects ready to go, and the time to help the intern learn. Many folks just hire an intern and try to offload stuff they can’t get to. But, while an intern can bring a fresh perspective and energy to a task, the person typically needs help as they figure out how to do the particular task because they are just starting their career. Make sure to plan time to develop the intern.
2. Find a Way to Give Back
If you want your first experience with an intern to be a success, you have to find a way to give back. In some cases, this could be a bonus paid out after their time with your company. In other instances, you could offer to buy everyone lunch once a week. Think carefully about what would help your interns maximize their experience, and make it a part of your incentives package.
3. Look for Initiative
Interns may have the least experience on tasks, but the differentiation factor helps you find value in them. One thing I like to look for in interns is the ability to take initiative. Great candidates are willing to learn and have the drive to grow into the role or try out new challenges. The ability to bootstrap their own work means they can work independently without needing lots of hand-holding
4. Give Them Meaningful Work
Don’t hire an intern to do meaningless work. Most internships require that the employer give the intern real-world experience related to their studies. This is particularly true for unpaid internships set up through colleges. Therefore, have a plan to give the intern meaningful work, train them and track their progress as you’ll need to provide reports to the intern’s school about their work.
5. Offer Organized and Effective Direction
The most important thing during the internship program is organized and effective direction — setting proper expectations, analyzing their motivation, giving them challenging milestones, offering candid feedback and giving them autonomy to do the work. Finally, enable them to have an impact on the team and deliver clear and concise results so that they can get an offer at the end of the term.
6. Establish Clear Start and End Dates
One way to improve your experience with an intern is to establish a clear start and end date. Many intern partnerships go south because workers assume they will become full-time employees. You should clarify to new interns that you don’t always hire full time after the contract expires. Setting clear expectations will make it easy to form strong partnerships grounded in honesty.
7. Provide Regular Feedback
A key piece of advice is to provide feedback regularly as part of your interactions with your new intern — even if it means repeating the same thing over and over again. This will help the intern understand what they’re doing well and where they need to improve. By giving feedback, you can help the intern learn and grow, which will benefit your business in the long run.
8. Have a Plan Before They Arrive
Interns are usually there for a limited time, so I would recommend not having them take on too much work or too many tasks at once. It’s also important to be able to set clear boundaries and expectations for your intern. The best advice I can give you is to have a plan in place before they arrive. This will help you know what you need from them and how they should be contributing during their time with you.
9. Assume They Know Nothing
Don’t assume that they have prior knowledge of the company. This may very well be their first time navigating the business world in any real sense, so things that may be obvious to most people may not be obvious to them. Start by assuming that everything needs to be explained, and always be open for questions. Start small and then move up from there.
10. Understand Their Needs
Take time to understand the needs of your intern. What are they looking for? What are they trying to learn? With this understanding, one can develop an internship sensitive to their goals that’s also attuned to the needs of the business. With a strong project-intern fit, the likelihood of the intern wanting to continue the project (or something similar) long term is much better.