There is often a lot of pressure for interns to handle whilst they’re gaining much-needed experience, possibly working for the first time. While pressure and deadlines and hard work are all important in gearing up for the real world, it is also important to consider some simple principles about handling young interns, both to boost their confidence and encourage them to work harder.
Respond generously to well written and targeted offers for interns to come and work with you. In this competitive market internships are widely regarded as necessary to get on.
Ensure that sufficient preparation and thought has been made to ensure the intern is set up for success e.g. Pass, canteen card, desk space, computer, phone, line manager, buddy/mentor to give them kindly hand to keep them on track.
Agree upfront their role, responsibilities, activities, expense policy, pay and benefits, hours, lunch breaks and dress code
Assign a trusted colleague to be responsible for the successful completion of the internship.
Assign the same or another colleague to ensure the company delivers on its duty of care. This includes protection against any form of harm, harassment or abuse e.g. Inappropriate behaviour from other employees, unrealistic hours and working patterns.
Ensure expectations of the internship are clearly agreed at the beginning. A simple one page of objectives or deliverables is helpful. This may include a combination of simple admin tasks, some more stretching interesting tasks and some new skills to learn.
Expect them to be punctual, committed and enthusiastic. A great attitude will take them a long way.
Monitor progress at a regular agreed time and format. A simple weekly meeting at the end of the week to review what has happened, both good and bad, can be useful and ensures any issues are dealt with quickly.
Ask the intern to complete a one page review of achievements/next steps and a quick review of what’s been good/less good can be helpful on a number of levels. i.e. to nip any issues in the bud and to see what they are taking in.
Further smaller check in’s to ensure on track can also be useful.
Ensure a formal end meeting to review achievements over the period, give feedback and identify opportunities for future development.
Give an indication if there may be a future possible role and how they can move this forward.
Be willing to write a summary of what the intern has achieved and be a referee for the future.
Do remember to be kind and supportive, despite business pressure. These are formative years which will be instrumental to their future life path.
Don’t treat interns as a cheap source of labour to replace the role of a permanent employee.
Don’t forget these are young people who may have had little experience of the outside world and particularly the world of business. They may make mistakes regarding appropriate dress and behaviours (which is why you need be upfront about what is suitable). There are many examples of where young girls think their best clothes for work are the same as the best clothes for a Friday night. Do ensure you have someone who can be clear and sensitive in communicating what is expected.
Don’t think your work and environment has little interest or value to an intern. Just being in a particular environment and undertaking relatively basic tasks can provide valuable insight into whether this is the right career choice for them.
Don’t forget your duty of care extends not just to cover the individual intern but also your company reputation. In the digital world a young person can widely spread a bad experience with damaging results.
….Remember, a great experience is brand building and may create a loyal customer.