For most college students, school’s out, which means internships are in session. Here at Roundpeg, we’re preparing for three interns, plus the addition of a part-time staff member. It’s going to be a wild summer here in our little house. As someone who has been both an intern and an internship supervisor, I know how stressful and difficult the first few days of an internship can be for both parties. If you’re planning on welcoming a group of interns to your office, here are a few things to keep in mind to keep everyone happy, productive, and sane.
- Have a plan: Your intern walks in on his or her first day, all shiny-faced and full of excitement and optimism. “What’s my first task, boss?” the whippersnapper asks, and you…stare blankly. If you’re going to have an intern, have an idea of what you want them to do–and make sure you have enough work to cover the entire tenure of the internship.
- Be prepared for a loss in productivity: Having an intern is going to save you so much time! They can take care of all of those time-consuming tasks you hate to do! It’s genius. A good intern can be a major time saver, but even the best intern needs training. They need to know and understand your business, and learn processes and skills that they never learned in school. For at least the first two weeks of the internship, expect a significant dip in your productivity while you bring your intern up to speed.
- Be patient: This one is tough for me. Remember, you’re working with a student. While most interns are very smart and hardworking, they’re students. That’s why you’re working with them for free or at a greatly reduced rate. They just don’t know everything yet: how to compose a professional email isn’t covered in most classes, for instance. Lots of students are also uncomfortable talking on the phone in a business setting, or performing dozens of other tasks you take for granted. Help them learn.
- Be flexible: Interns are unique and delicate snowflakes. Just because you want them to handle your social media account (for instance) doesn’t mean they are going to either like or be good at handling the account. Many students are enthusiastic about learning a task until they do it. Roll with it. If possible, shift interns to areas that play to their strengths, rather than fighting a losing battle to make them do a good job with something they have no aptitude for. Everyone has to do unpleasant tasks, but if the intern is truly ill-suited for it, try to make a change.
- Be prepared for the unexpected: At Roundpeg, we’ve had interns tell us they weren’t coming two days before their start date. We’ve had interns quit after two weeks. We’ve had to fire interns. We’ve also had interns become employees, friends, and part of our Roundpeg family. Our business wouldn’t be the same without a little army marching in and out every summer, adding their energy and new ideas. But make no mistake: they bring challenges, and they will constantly surprise you.
What are your tips for dealing with interns? Interns, what do you want to know about dealing with employers?