Many times, the quality of an intern is directly correlated to the quality of his or her manager.
Sometimes, it seems we’re all too focused on listing what makes a “good intern” that we forget interns still need guidance, advice and constructive feedback. Plus, we’re all so busy that we neglect the importance of taking time to explain a project, find new opportunities and review the outcomes of projects with people who may have never worked in a professional setting.
In light of all the fall internships getting underway, here are some tips to keep in mind when you accept the responsibility of managing an intern:
1. Roll out the welcome mat.
Multiply your old back-to-school jitters by about 1,000 and you might remember what it feels like to be an intern. Be prepared for their first day, set aside time to answer questions, give a tour, introduce them to the rest of the team and talk about some of the projects they’ll be contributing to. Ideally, take them to lunch or bring it in.
2. Discover their interests.
Truly great managers take the time to find out what interests their interns most. We all know that there are good and not-so-good aspects of a job, but all are important. Let them know there’s someone in their corner seeking out opportunities that will keep them energized and engaged working on the less-than-exciting assignments.
3. Provide context on every assignment.
Don’t just ask interns to build a media list or research a particular topic. Take a few moments to share details about the project and explain how the task they have been assigned fits into the bigger picture. Knowing the role they’re playing will immediately make them more engaged.
4. Have an open-door policy.
There’s nothing worse than having questions about a particular project (that’s unsolvable by Google and all other resources) and feeling like there’s no one to ask. By establishing a trusting relationship, they’ll know that no question is a bad question.
5. Meet regularly.
Carve out time to give feedback and see if they’re getting the most out of their internship. Regular performance reviews will strengthen their experience and better equip them for the next step in their careers.
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6. Share your experiences and “teachable moments.”
Also known as mistakes, teachable moments are a breath of fresh air to interns. While they may think you are a flawless PR master, you know the truth. Share those times to let them see that expertise is gained over time. You never stop learning.
7. Schedule an exit interview.
Practice what you preach and make an effort to hear feedback about their experience with your company. Ask how you and others supported the interns during their time with you.
Most important, we all need to remember that internships can be life-changing for students and recent graduates. They are the catalysts to the next step in their careers. What might seem like just another internship to you can turn out to be the opportunity of a lifetime for them.
What tips do you have for working with interns, particularly in the PR field?
Lindsay Grant works at The Hodges Partnership, an agency that specializes in media relations.