“Interns are a waste of time and energy.”
In my recent placement, I was shocked to hear this sentiment on more than one occasion from business owners who think that students will do anything to gain ‘CV fodder’ and be nothing more than a drain on already overstretched resources.
However, I believe, that with the right approach, interns can provide a real boost to your business. Bringing fresh eyes, bright ideas, and often a sense of possibility, the benefit can be profound for both parties.
8 Top Tips to ensure your intern adds Value
- Invest Time. If you want your intern to be more useful than a ‘full-time photocopier’ or ‘office-barista’ then you need to be prepared to give time for training and development. The amount of time you need to give will decrease over time but in the initial few days it is important to listen, repeat instructions and walk them through different tasks.
- Be Available. It is good to leave an intern to get on with a task but don’t leave them stranded! Especially in the initial phase, they will want to ask questions and double check processes as they will be keen to impress and not get things wrong. Respond to emails and phone calls quickly and be around the office so you can be on-hand when needed.
- Ask them Questions. There should be continual dialogue and feedback between an intern and their employer. Ask them questions to ascertain where their strengths and interests lie. This will provide a framework within which you can decide on the content of the internship. By taking an interest in them you may discover all sorts of skills which could be an asset to your business.
- Give Specific Targets. However long the internship, specific targets with time-limits are essential. This provides structure, focus and motivation for the intern as well as evidence of tangible achievements that they can share with future employers.
- Vary their Tasks. Variety is key for maintaining interest but also in discovering skills. Gaining a range of experiences is useful for the intern but it also allows you to see their strengths and weaknesses.
- Give them Responsibility. Handing over responsibility is difficult for everyone but it is essential to give an intern tasks which carry meaning and give them a sense of ownership. This motivates them to do well, makes targets and deadlines more pressing and should ensure efficient and high level work.
- Give them Space. Giving the intern a desk of their own or their own phone-line and laptop gives them a sense of ownership and professionalism. This helps them to feel like a valued members of the team and motivates them to perform their tasks to the best of their ability. It also gives them room to be able to think and work-through small problems without feeling ‘watched’ all the time.
- Be Positive. Your intern won’t necessarily excel at every task they undertake but make sure that you are encouraging rather than patronising. In the face of mistakes, work with them to find solutions and make changes. In the wake of success, commend them in front of other team members to instil a sense of pride and value in their work.
The key to a productive intern is a happy intern. Be friendly and open-minded and I challenge you: welcome fresh minds into your organisation and watch it go from strength to strength!
Miriam Lee was an intern for South West Growth Service Limited in July 2016. For further information about the company or potential internships contact Chris Lorimer at firstname.lastname@example.org