The idea of an intern who is constantly getting coffee and sandwiches, and has all of the most boring work thrown upon his or her shoulders is becoming swiftly outdated.
Hiring a summer intern can not only be a beneficial learning experience for the intern, but it is often highly beneficial for the company as well. And getting coffee and doing the grunt work is really not in the best interest of your intern or your company.
First, understand that if you are not paying your interns, you will be limited in what you can legally have them do. Most of the suggestions in this article will not be a good fit for an unpaid internship. If you are paying your interns, you have more flexibility to set them to tasks that are contributing to the company and you should not have any concerns about the ideas outlined in this post.
Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, and you have hired an intern, here’s a few ideas to make the most of your time together:
1. Assign Specific Projects
Choosing a very specific project that has a beginning, middle, and end will give your intern a purpose for his or her summer spent with your company. Make that project something valuable to your company that maybe your full-time staff just hasn’t had time to get to yet. It should be something that adds value to the company and will drive measurable results.
2. Review an Internal Process
Internal processes are an important part of any company. They ensure that there is consistency and that a function can go on even if the employee who usually does the function leaves or takes a vacation.
Having an intern actually implement a relevant process is a good test of that documentation. Does it explain the steps clearly? Is it too long or too short? Did anything get left out? These are all questions a fresh set of eyes can help you answer.
3. Focus on Individual Interests
If you have many different functions in your business, or even in your department, allowing your intern to observe different functions and determine and explore areas of interests will create higher engagement and a more positive experience.
You also might be surprised what ideas your intern can bring to an area they are passionate about. Give him or her the chance to really shine in an area of interest, or learn more about an area that they might not have a full knowledge of. That is the point of an internship: to learn.
4. Allow Time for Real Tasks
Real jobs are not all sunshine and flowers. There are mundane, everyday tasks that must be done in every position. This includes answering emails, sorting mail, data entry, and other simple tasks. Make sure your intern is getting a realistic idea of what a real job means. That includes boring, daily tasks along with more exciting projects and interesting meetings and brainstorming sessions.
The bottom line of any internship is to be real. Show your true company and the reality of daily life in your organization. An internship is about finding a good fit for that individual and gaining essential experience. And who knows, you might find that your intern fits in so well with the needs and culture of your company that you both don’t wish to part ways at the end of the internship.
About the Author: Jeff Reinstein has been the Chief Executive Officer of Premier Business Centers since 2002. When he’s not at work, he enjoys surfing, fishing, and mountain biking.