It’s that time of year again! College students and recent grads are starting their summer internships and their managers are wondering how in the world they’re going to keep them occupied while providing a valuable experience. Over at the Intuit Small Business blog, Liz Magill has some excellent suggestions for leaders implementing an internship program this summer. Among them:
Offer a real learning opportunity
Making coffee and copies won’t do. Bright, energetic interns want a chance to do something meaningful. Although you can start with basics, gradually increase the complexity and scope of the job so your eager talent feels a sense of accomplishment.
Set challenging, but attainable goals
Don’t expect a writing intern to win a Pulitzer, a science intern to develop the next great patent, a sales intern to land your company’s biggest client, or a tech-savvy intern to build the next Facebook. Setting goals outside the capabilities of your intern may lead to frustration, while goals that are too easy will bring on boredom.
Interns should be mentored, not watched like a hawk. You can put them on a leash, but make it a long leash. Interns come with a huge bucket of enthusiasm; don’t stifle it.
It may be summer, but it’s not summer camp. Let your interns know that their work is very important to the success of your business, and that you expect deadlines to be met — and work quality to be high.
Abide by labor laws
In order for internships in “for profit” companies to qualify as unpaid, they must meet six federal legal criteria as outlined in this United States Department of Labor fact sheet. If these six criteria are not satisfied, then an “employment” relationship exists, which means the intern must be paid.
Additionally, I believe open communication with interns is essential. Get your interns started on the right foot by encouraging them to:
Look around and listen
Interns should pay attention to the comings-and-goings of more experienced colleagues, and routinely ask for feedback on their performance.
While they have the opportunity, interns should network with as many colleagues as they can, going out with the group for Happy Hour and attending the summer party.
When dealing with other team members, interns should come across as gracious and can-do. They should constantly look for ways to share their expertise and add value to the team’s operations.
With the right preparation and guidance, your interns will contribute substantially to your team, both workwise and interpersonally. You know you’ve managed them the right way when, at the end of the summer, your team members ask if an intern can stay on as a full timer.