This post was originally written by me for Phinkit and I wanted to also share it with you here! Enjoy!
We have interns in constantly. I mean it, all the time – for the last 6 years – ever since my manicurist told me her son needed work experience, and we got him in doing HTML content entry, and resizing images in Photoshop for a lingerie website we were making (he was 17 and was quite happy with this task!)
On average, we have around 6-8 different individuals come in for work experience/internships each year. Some stay a week, some stay a month, and we have a few who have come for 3 month internships. We always interview them first, so not all internship applicants get to work with us, only the ones who show the drive, attention to detail and attitude we have here in our team.
It works for us
I also would like to point out that out of my 8 members of staff, 6 of them started off as interns at my company. So, it can lead to full time employment, if the timing is right, and in the cases of these particular individuals, they were just TOO GOOD to let go!
9 tips to make it work
Workstation: Make sure that you have a good workstations setup for them – a desk, chair and PC, hopefully on the network, is idea. This gives them a comfortable place to work, and shows them this is a company that cares for its employees
Check their work and be patient: Most of the time, Interns are working for very little money/travel expenses. They are there to learn. Don’t assume they know how to do things unchecked or that their first attempt will be perfect. Whatever tasks you give them may come back done badly or wrong and it’s your role to correct tem and even get them to do the task again until it’s right – even if this means it takes them a longer time. The more you teach them, the more helpful they will be to you.
Stack up their tasks: This is important. It’s very common for interns to run out of things to do. Give them a few tasks to do, so that they can complete one and move onto the next without having to ask you for more work to do (or sitting and stating into space because they are shy!). I actually come up with lists and ideas for them when I am not at my desk, as then I have more space to think of ideas of what they can work on.
Set responsibilities that help you out: Come up with a list of responsibilities that they can do during their time with you. For example they could check the post, greet visitors and take their coats, and offer drinks, as well as the actual work related tasks. In my experience, work experience staff and interns are happy to help and want to feel like they have something to offer, while they are learning.
A big project: Come up with a project that isn’t time sensitive, allows them to learn, and which actually doesn’t need to be done. That’s right – invent a project. This will mean they can work on it in between other tasks – so they can keep busy, avoid boredom, and have ownership of something. If they do compete the project within their time with you, then great, but it should be something you can take or leave. In our company we have recently given one of our interns a full site to build and integrate WordPress into. He does that whenever the team hasn’t given him anything else to do. This way, we don’t have to worry if we have run out of things to give him to do.
Avoid interruptions This is up to you – but I have a lot to do when I am at my desk, I when I get new recruits and interns starting, I ask them to email when they have completed a task, rather than coming over to speak to me and interrupting me. It also mimics “real life” – when you have a task you do for a client, you often have to email them and tell them you have done so the ball is back in their court. This way you can get to the email when you have time.
Set deadlines and time periods when assigning tasks: When someone is new to working in your field, then they are bound to work slower than a more experienced member of staff, much of the time. So, when you assign then task, take this into account, and let them know what it should normally take them to do this task, but how you understand that it would probably take them longer, but can they give you an update within a specified time period. This also teaches them to think more commercially, as in the working world tasks usually have a budget and timescale associated with them and employees become more aware of this with experience.
Remember, they are there to learn, and this is a give and take arrangement. You are giving them valuable experience, and they are giving you their time in exchange for not very much money. So explain tasks clearly, tell them where they need to save files, show them tips and shortcuts, and check their work. When I assign a task to an intern, and they have done it “wrong” or not as perfect as I would like, I actually allow myself to be very picky and get them to do something over and over until it’s right, so they know how important detail and quality are. And the ones we have here don’t mind as they want to learn to do things right.
And – if they have done a good job – help them out. Make sure if you are happy with them, you write a nice recommendation letter for them, as they can use this to help them move further in their career. Even if you are busy, this is something that makes a big difference to them – and it’s good karma!
I hope that has been useful for you and you are all charged up and ready to put your time an energy into helping someone get started in your career, and in turn getting them to help you out in your business. It’s a win win situation if you play it right. Let me know how it goes!