The economy has not been kind to recent graduates who have entered the careers market only to find that real (as in paid) jobs are hard to come by. The global recession, coupled with steep competition means that young employees are willing to do more for less in order to gain valuable experience and skills. Internships, if managed correctly can bring huge benefits to both employers and employees, however cheap labor can come at a cost if not handled effectively.
HOW TO MANAGE INTERNS TO OPTIMIZE THE EXPERIENCE FOR BOTH THE INDIVIDUAL AND THE ORGANIZATION
MAKE SURE THEY HAVE A ROLE TO FULFILL
First and foremost, make sure there is a role that needs fulfilling that will be of value to the organization and the intern. It’s a waste of time for both parties if the nature of the assignment is vague and lacking in clear goals or objectives. Ensure there is a substantive workload that will challenge the intern and teach them new skills, while bringing benefit to the organization. When everyone involved is seeing the worth of the internship there is more to be gained.
TAKE TIME TO TEACH
It’s all to easy to set an intern up at a desk and throw menial tasks their way that require little thought or training but this generates little or no value for the intern or the organization. Be thoughtful about the assignments you set and take the time to teach the person what he or she needs to know to complete the task accurately and affectively. Not only will this ensure the task is done to a high standard, but it also means the intern has learned skills which they can take away with them.
PROVIDE FEEDBACK AND CONSTRUCTIVE CRITICISM
Internships are only a good idea if you have the time to provide feedback and evaluate the individual’s work. Without advice and pointers in the right direction the intern isn’t learning anything new, rendering the whole experience pointless. What’s more, if you don’t bother to correct mistakes or make suggestions, the work you receive will be below par, meaning you’ll have to take more time out in the long run to redo assignments.
A LITTLE THANK YOU GOES A LONG WAY
Incentives don’t just have to be financially driven. Interns don’t expect to be rewarded monetarily but that’s not to say they don’t appreciate recognition in other ways. Take the time to write your intern a note of gratitude for completing a task on time, thank them by offering to pay for lunch one afternoon or give them the chance to join you on a business trip out of the office. Incentives such as these will broaden your intern’s experience. Furthermore, renewed enthusiasm will often result in greater application and results.
SUMMARIZE AND EVALUATE THE EXPERIENCE
When the internship comes to an end, its important to sit down one-on-one and evaluate the experience. Provide the person with feedback regarding their progress and highlight the skills they’ve learnt and improved upon during their tenure with the company. During the evaluation, it can also be beneficial to offer professional advice about where their strengths and weaknesses lie.
Conversely, this is a great opportunity to hear from the intern about their opinion of the experience. Was it valuable? What did they learn? What would they have changed? All this information can help you improve your internship program next time around. And finally, be sure to offer to give the intern a professional reference.
PROVIDE FULL TIME EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITIES
When all is said and done, interns undoubtedly take time to manage, but if that time is invested correctly, the process can be rewarding for both the organization and the individual. With this in mind, it’s wise to introduce a scheme whereby successful interns can apply for full time positions at the company. After all, if you have taken the time to up-skill an individual, you don’t want them to take their newfound knowledge and experience to a competitor.