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  • July 3, 2014

So, You’ve Hired an Intern. Now What?

Interns can make your life as an employer a little bit easier. They are the extra pair of hands you’ve always needed, and Decorative Illustration unbridled creativity fills their minds. Interns strive to be a valuable asset to your team and want an educational and enjoyable experience. Since they are only around for a few months, making the best use of both their and your time should be a common goal. Great interns put in 110% effort every day, but what can you, the employer, do to ensure that internships are valuable for both of you?

1. Set some ground rules

Like any job-seeking individual would do, interns complete some background research about your company in preparation for an interview, but they might not know all your company policies—the rules on dress code, scheduling, holidays, payroll, etc. They’ll want to begin working on the first day, so share any paperwork and policies in advance.

2. Create a game plan, and provide a coach

Sit down with your interns and chat about their goals prior to their first day. Ask them about their interests, and incorporate their answers into your internship program; they’ll feel more motivated to create better work as a result. Don’t mistake eagerness for their knowing what to work on. Your interns do still need guidance. They are used to having a professor, so give them a mentor who can answer questions about work policies and give regular feedback on their projects and performance. Mentorship doesn’t have to fall on just one employee’s shoulders. When they arrive on the first day, find a meaningful desk location for them next to full-time employees who could also serve as role models.

3. Give them work

Interns come to companies for a specific reason: to gain industry experience. They want to learn everything about your business and field. Encourage them to participate in discussions, meetings, and brainstorming sessions. Good interns will ask for work if they aren’t busy, but if they don’t, challenge them and assign them a variety of projects. Once you expose interns to your different types of work, allow them to choose a specific area to explore further. If your graphic design intern takes interest in HTML wireframing, offer the chance to work with developers to build her coding skills. Your interns will work harder and feel more invested in their work if they get to focus on what they enjoy.

4. Offer and ask for feedback

Schedule regular check-ins to make sure that goals are on track and everyone is happy. Don’t be afraid to provide criticism, so long as you also suggest how they can improve. Letting them continue to do poorly is going to hurt them more than your constructive feedback will. However, remember that they are interns. Sometimes they doubt themselves, so give them pats on the back when they perform well, too.
Check-ins are also a chance for you to ask for feedback about your own company. Interns bring a fresh perspective to your work and culture, so ask them how your business could be improved from an outsider’s view.

5. Make them feel like part of the team

Interns want to fit in. They don’t want to be known only as “the intern.” Joke around with them. Get to know them. Invite them to company-wide happy hours, BBQs, or any other social events. They are part of your company—even if just for a few months—so spending more time together outside of work will create a better team dynamic in the office.

6. Say goodbye, or not

At the end of the internship, you might shake hands and part ways, or you might ask your interns to continue being a part of your team. Either way, sit down with them towards the end of the internship and discuss the overall good and bad. If things didn’t turn out as you planned, you’ve hopefully communicated your dissatisfaction in earlier check-ins. In the least, you’ll be able to determine what you can do as an employer to better structure your program and improve the experience for your next intern. If you do offer them a job, it’s a win-win. They can remain at a company they love, and you know you’re hiring a smart and dedicated person who already knows the ins and outs of your company.

Courtney Sabo is currently a design intern at Happy Cog by way of Drexel’s Co-op program. We’ve enjoyed working with Drexel’s highly motivated and bright students over the years, and were honored to receive an award for being Co-op Employer of Year.

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