Interns can play a valuable role for companies of all sizes and types, including small businesses. They can provide an extra hand on projects, helping organizations complete them faster and more efficiently. And, they can help you develop a strong internal candidate pool by finding new talent early. Interns who convert to full-time employees are already accustomed to your organization’s procedures, on board with your mission and ready to hit the ground running.1
But it’s important for companies to nurture their interns. Mentoring is an integral part of the development process. It not only provides a more hands-on approach to helping interns improve their job skills and understand how to behave in the workplace, but also makes them feel more appreciated by an employer, demonstrating an organization’s investment in their professional growth. That can boost workers’ motivation and, in turn, the quality of their work.
Yet mentoring an intern can only succeed if it is conducted skillfully. It requires a willingness of organizations to connect with interns, give responsibility and provide feedback. Consider these important tips to help you effectively manage an intern.
Match the intern’s skills to the internship
Interns are most likely to be successful in your organization if their skills and passions align with the job to be done. Provide tasks that are meaningful and useful to the organization, rather than busy work. Their time with your company is about their growth first and foremost — and as you give them chances to grow and improve their skills, they will continue to become more valuable to your organization.2
While interns, of course, require development of said skills, it helps for them to already have a solid foundation of skills or education to build upon. Before you can align their skills with your internship’s job responsibilities, you need to discover your intern’s professional abilities. Assess their skills early on in the interview process and upon hiring to ensure that you can delegate tasks that are within their capabilities while still challenging them and building new skills.3 You can find many assessment tools online.4
In addition to an intern’s passions and skills, it is also important for them to gain progressive skills to learn a stronger sense of how a business operates and aims to achieve its goals. As all projects are assigned, carefully outline the reasons for each project and its potential impact on an organization.
Seek ideas from interns
Workers and managers trust each other more in environments where questioning and problem-solving occur openly and spontaneously, even when exclusive one-on-one meetings are rare. To ensure interns are learning technical processes, don’t just itemize the steps. Ask interns about problems they think might arise if the technical task or process — such as repairing equipment — is not performed precisely or if they have ideas on how to do it faster or at a lower cost. Emphasize that their input helps your business be more successful.
A good internship mentor also provides feedback along the way, or at least at the conclusion of a project, so the interns will have a more complete understanding of what they are doing well and where they need to improve. Making sure your feedback is constructive will help them improve more quickly and build key skills. Constructive feedback is corrective, but also supportive and actionable.5
Create tasks for interns to learn
Once you have a good feel for your intern’s skills and passions, it’s time to start creating tasks. The items you assign should be aimed at helping your intern grow their capabilities and knowledge. Try examining the tasks on your plate to see if there’s anything you can pass off or collaborate on. Examples of good tasks to assign interns include:6
- Research to inform a new project or market
- Competitive audits
- Creating and giving presentations
Create networking opportunities for interns
One key way you can help your intern succeed is to create networking opportunities for them. This can also benefit your business, as they will serve as representatives of your business during networking events. Inviting them to industry events such as luncheons or tradeshows can help give them a greater understanding of their role at your organization while also helping them lay the tracks for their future careers.3
Meet with interns for weekly check-ins
Just like your full-time employees, interns thrive with your guidance. Schedule weekly check-ins to discuss their progress on projects, any roadblocks they face and their general experience. Make sure to check in on their workload, ensuring they have enough to stay busy without feeling overwhelmed. Scheduling time weekly gives your intern a safe space to have conversations with you without feeling micromanaged.3
Clarify your business mission and values to interns
Displaying and clarifying how your mission and values apply to your business motivates workers to stay focused on your business goals and the best ways to interact with customers.
Hiring interns can help improve the skills of the next generation and have a positive effect on an organization in the short and long term. Learn more about how you can grow your business in the Nationwide Business Solution Center.