Hiring an intern can sometimes feel like a crapshoot. A resume dripping with experience and a flawless interview doesn’t always mean you’re going to end up with a phenomenal intern hire. But that doesn’t mean you can’t help your intern go from average to awesome during their time in your internship program.
It’s frustrating to discover you’ve made the wrong intern hire. While you may not be planning to hire him or her at the end of the semester, you should still invest the necessary time and energy to help transform them into a better intern and future entry-level employee.
Here’s how to effectively manage your interns to help turn them into more productive and talented team members:
Plan … and Then Plan Some More
Developing a great internship program involves boat loads of planning. Your interns need structure, consistency, and actual work to be beneficial and successful members of your company. Before your intern even arrives you need to create an intern handbook and a slew of projects and tasks for them to tackle during their time with you.
But if your intern is slacking after the first few weeks with you, it may be time to switch things up. Take your planning a step further by setting quantifiable weekly goals for your interns and breaking down larger projects into smaller, more manageable — and easily coachable — tasks.
Play to Their Strengths
So, you hired an intern who isn’t as skilled as you originally thought. Never fear, you can attempt to remedy this problem by finding out where your intern’s strengths actually lie and acting accordingly.
For example, you may have hired you intern for a social media role to find out they’re not as digitally well versed as you planned for. Assign them a variety of projects to find out where they excel. Your social media intern may actually turn into a phenomenal marketing intern if they have a knack for that area.
Get Interns Involved
Rather than throwing in the towel and letting your mediocre intern coast during the rest of their internship, consider immersing them to help them improve.
Open your intern’s eyes to your company and the industry you’re a part of. Bring them into brainstorming sessions, client meetings, conferences, trade shows, and other roles within your company. This will give them a better sense of their own role, where they fit in, and their importance to the company and agency as a whole.
Communicate Freely and Frequently
Communication is the key to better interns. Set up a weekly 30-minute check-in with your intern to discuss projects from the past week and touch on the tasks to come. This should be a very open discussion where both you and your intern can ask questions and share concerns.
You can also use this time to find out how your intern is really feeling about their personal goals, progress, and their role. Give them the confidence they need to trust you and speak freely. Not only will this one-on-one session help your interns to feel more comfortable asking questions and trying new things, it will strengthen their progress, helping your company to thrive overall.
Feedback Should Come with a Plan of Action
Your interns will never improve if you aren’t giving them the necessary feedback and guidance. Make sure you’re not just criticising your intern while communicating. Simply telling your intern what they’re doing wrong and not creating a plan of action to resolve or improve performance is a dead end.
For instance, your intern may be struggling with consistent grammar and spelling errors in the copy they’re creating for you. Teach them ways to resolve this problem and ensure it’s something they can move past.
Empower Interns with Autonomy
Sometimes the best learning and growth experiences take place when you let your interns figure things out on their own.
Instead of micromanaging or holding the hands of your average interns, try giving them loose directions and letting them take the wheel. Let them take charge of a brainstorming session and actually put their ideas to task, or ask them how they think a project can be improved. You might be surprised what your interns come up with when you meet for your weekly check-in.
Let Them Do the Thinking
Brainstorming may not be your intern’s forte, but that doesn’t mean you can’t change that. If your intern shuts down when you ask for ideas to help your company or a client, try turning it into a competition.
For example, set a time limit and ask your group of interns to send you ideas to help resolve a specific problem. Set the tone for fun, creativity, and competition by stating that the intern with the best ideas will receive a small gift, like a meal voucher or a work-from-home day. This will turn up the heat on your average interns’ creativity and help them to feel their contributions are welcome.
Learn from Your Interns
Avoid landing a less-than-awesome intern and improve your internship program for the future by gaining feedback from your intern class. Conduct individual exit interviews with your interns to gain insight into their experiences. Encourage them to be honest, and let them know your recommendation for future positions won’t be compromised based on their feedback.
Perhaps you’ll find your internship program would benefit from hiring more diverse candidates, spending more time onboarding interns, or focusing on increasing leadership opportunities. Use the insight you’ve gathered to make tweaks in your recruitment process and internship program overall to ensure you’re not only hiring the best candidates, but are also keeping them engaged and happy while giving them a great learning experience.
You don’t have to settle for an average intern — there’s a lot you can do to help them transform professionally. Use these tips to turn your interns from average to awesome, and your organization will reap the benefits.