How to Provide Valuable Career Experience to Your Interns
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This article was written by Lindsay Patton, a member of the Entrepreneur NEXT powered by Assemble content team. Entrepreneur NEXT is our Expert solutions division leading the future of work and skills-based economy. If you’re struggling to find, vet, and hire the right Experts for your business, Entrepreneur NEXT is a platform to help you hire the experts you need, exactly when you need them. From business to marketing, sales, design, finance, and technology, we have the top 3 percent of Experts ready to work for you.
When young talent starts entering the workforce through internships, their success partly depends on the leadership they receive. For those new in their careers, internships are a vital launching pad, and the guidance from a mentor can improve their chances of landing a job.
Taking on one or more internships increases hireability after the experience is over. In 2019, 56 percent of interns became full-time hires at their company, which is why access to internships is crucial for future job candidates.
The interns you work with will most likely be eager to dive in. As a leader, it’s your job to embrace their eagerness and help them harness their excitement to reach their full potential. When someone leaves a good internship experience, they should not only have more experience, but more skills added onto their resume.
Whether your intern stays on full time or finds another opportunity, you are still helping them to realize their next step isn’t as scary as they originally thought. Whether you manage interns directly, or someone else on your team does, here’s how you can be a leader that connects them to the next phase of their career.
Help them discover career likes and dislikes.
Your interns are just starting out in their industries, so this is a crucial time for them to discover the parts of their career they like and the parts they don’t like. Half of people who participate in internships take on more than one, as they typically do not last longer than a year. By doing this, people new to the industry get a career buffet of sorts before diving in full time. A person could have multiple internship experiences, with each one completely different from the next.
To help your intern explore more of their industry, be in tune with what they like to do, what they don’t like to do, where they’re skilled and where you see potential. The best way to do this is to get to know your intern. The more you are familiar with someone’s personality, the easier it is to connect them with people and projects that set them up for success. It’s also important to be a leader they feel comfortable communicating with, as employees are more successful when they see their leader as trustworthy.
In a successful experience, the intern walks away clearly knowing what they want or don’t want in a future job. Even if an internship wasn’t a fit, the experience is still a good one because the intern walks away knowing what they don’t want. The more experiences a person has, the easier it is for them to evaluate them and decide which aspects they are looking for in a job.
Let your intern try as many projects and develop as many skills as they can so they are well prepared for job hunting and eventually making strides in their own careers.
Allow them to observe whenever possible.
Being in a hands-on environment is a great way for a new employee to gain experience and absorb information. Granted, not every meeting or situation will be intern friendly, so before you go wild with sending out meeting invites, come up with a list of meetings where interns are encouraged to attend and ones that are no-gos.
For the meetings they are in on, help them develop their note-taking skills. Even if there is already a designated note taker in the meeting, these skills will help them retain information better and prepare them for a career-lenth’s worth of meetings.
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Provide as much feedback as you can.
Constructive feedback is how we all grow and Gen Z is pushing for more feedback. The workforce’s youngest generation values continually improving their work performance. What that means to them is weekly or bi-weekly check-ins with their supervisors on projects, performance and anything related to the workplace in general.
When giving feedback, look at all aspects of the work and always include the positives. If an employee doesn’t know what they’re doing right, they can’t use that as a model for other areas of work. Some things to consider when offering your feedback.
Be specific. Your intern will learn best when they know exactly what they did right or wrong.
Be present. This time is dedicated to your intern.
Be encouraging. Help your intern believe they can get past obstacles.
Overall, keep the feedback balanced with areas of improvement and areas of success, and be encouraging. An employee will leave the meeting motivated to improve when they feel supported by their supervisor.
Show your appreciation.
Simply put: interns do the jobs nobody else at the company wants to do. And they aren’t appreciated enough for it. For as much experience you are giving your intern, they are saving you time and keeping processes moving. Interns help reduce employee workload, so your team can focus on what they’re best at and not feel overwhelmed by projects and tasks.
This is a huge help! However, attitudes toward interns don’t always reflect gratitude, which is why it’s important to be mindful of how valuable interns are to your company. Take time to get to know your interns and make them feel welcomed whenever possible. Is there a specific trait you like about their working style? Tell them. A positive work environment in general leads to innovation, higher satisfaction, more trust and employee retention. When you spread gratitude, everyone benefits.
Keep in touch after the internship.
An intern’s last day doesn’t mean they’re gone forever. By investing in your intern’s success, you’re also building an important work relationship. Even if you don’t have a position open for them immediately, you could work together years down the road.
Providing your intern a valuable work experience positions you as a leader and mentor who is worthwhile to stay connected with. At times, this can benefit you and your company, as they are likely to keep you in mind as they grow their career and make new connections.
It’s common for our networks to share resources and your former intern could share some in the form of an employee or client referral. These referrals are gold because they are coming from a person already familiar with your company and understands what a good fit looks like. But don’t do it all for the referrals, because the joy you get when your intern connects out of the blue to check in on you is infectious.
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