I’ve yet to work somewhere where people are actually pleased to get an intern. But it’s not the intern’s fault that the markets just crashed so you don’t have time to talk to them. So what can you do with them to make sure they have a useful experience? It’s really important to give your intern a useful and productive internship. These are the next round of people that will be entering the workforce.
1. Give your team as much notice as possible.
I know this is easier said than done, but you need to get people engaged with the idea as early as possible. As a PA, you can’t have an intern sitting with you all day for two weeks – they need to interact with as many people as possible to get the best overview of the company.
Although I think we all know that they would probably learn more from you than most of the other people in the company!
2. Give them a project.
I worked somewhere once where the analysts looked at stocks all day to decide which ones they wanted to invest in. I suggested that one of the analysts give the intern 5 stocks and asks them to research which one they felt would give the best returns over a set period. I gave this to the technology analyst as he was looking at more well-known companies like Apple and Google – ones that the intern will have heard of.
A good intern will then use that project as a basis for which questions they ask and what research reports they look at throughout their time with you.
If you don’t work in the financial sector, there are still plenty of things they can do. You can give them a similar project that is more to do with your company. Perhaps you could invent an event for them to plan. Or you could ask them to come up with a social media strategy for you.
The main thing is that you give them something to do that will actually help them decide if they want to do that as a career when they finish uni. A bonus will be that it helps you, the company!
It’s important that you give them something to do which makes them think. If you have a summer intern who is still at high school, this is possibly a way of learning that they haven’t had much experience of.
Giving them filing and shredding, whilst fine as a one-off, is not what their internship should mainly consist of.
3. Give them a schedule.
Put some effort into scheduling some specific things for them to do. If you have a daily/weekly team meeting, make sure that’s on their schedule. You could ask them to contribute somehow (even if it’s just to give everyone an overview of what they are studying).
Carve out some time with people so that they can sit with your intern and explain what their role is.
Giving your intern a formal schedule shows them that you care they are there and want them to get something out of their time with you.
4. Involve them
Let them attend your (non confidential) meetings. Take them along to a client meeting if you can, and then ask them some questions when you have finished. Introduce them to everyone in the team so that everyone knows who the intern is.
There’s nothing worse than feeling like a spare part. When I did a work experience placement, for a lot of my time I was stuck up in an office by myself sorting out a bunch of old files. It was soul destroying. What did I learn? That all offices should be paperless!!
5. Review them
This is really important and probably something which is done the least. At the end of the placement, someone senior should sit with your intern and go through what they have learned and answer any questions. They should offer constructive feedback to the intern so that they know how they have done. Give them some pointers on what to work on and generally give them some career advice.
One senior executive I worked with gave our intern his business card and offered some follow up meetings throughout the rest of his studies. He was basically offering to be this guy’s mentor. It was the most wonderful gesture, and a couple of years later he started working with us full time!
So, if you are an intern, the one piece of advice I can offer you is to meet as many people as possible and leave them with a good impression of you. This can ultimately be worth more than your education in terms of career opportunities in the future. I’ve seen the proof with my very eyes.
Have you had a recent internship? What did you get out of it?
Have you recently had an intern? What did you give them to do?