Five Ways to Check In on Summer Interns

Managing summer interns is never easy. While some interns turn out to be future colleagues, other interns create more work than they carry out and some even prove to be a huge liability. In 2010, an intern at TechCrunch was busted when it was discovered that he was asking startups for big gifts (e.g., a new MacBook Air) in exchange for writing positive posts about them.  But this intern wasn’t alone. From glitter bombing politicians to generating fake news, there is no shortage of stories about nightmare interns.

While such stories may make some organizations intern-shy, most organizations take on interns for primarily altruistic reasons (e.g., to help train the next generation of American workers) and understand the related risks. The real issue is how to manage this training-intensive activity, mitigate risks, and produce a value-added experience for interns who truly are there to learn and grow.

Step 1: Establish Clear Expectations

The surest way to set an intern up for failure is to fail to provide clear expectations. Start each internship by discussing the organization’s expectations. Also, establish a schedule and calendar for the internship with clear benchmarks.  This way, you’ll be able to evaluate whether your intern is making progressing, and they will have clear goals to pursue throughout the summer months. The benchmarks can be simple (e.g., “Show up everyday on time” or more demanding, “Become fully proficient using the organization’s enterprise application software”).

Step 2: Provide Ongoing Feedback

Ideally, supervisors should offer constant feedback to their interns. As several recent studies have revealed, younger workers crave more not less feedback and interns are especially eager to receive ongoing feedback. After all, as students, most interns are accustomed to having ongoing feedback on their progress.  Depending on how many interns you have, schedule 10- to 15-minute meetings once a week on their progress, or automate the process by using a learning management system with advanced evaluation and tracking options.

Step 3: Don’t Wait If Your Intern Fails

If you’re intern gets derailed and needs help, don’t wait until its too late. If they are consistently late for work, calling in sick, spending all their time on their phone playing Candy Crush, or treating the office like a live version of Tinder, intervene sooner rather than later. Yes, this may be awkward, but procrastinating will only make matters worse and wear down your staff who are forced to put up with the interns’ bad behavior. Be direct when addressing problems: “I’ve noticed you spend a lot of time playing a game on your cell phone, even when you have incomplete work. This is unacceptable in the workplace” or “You’ve already been late three times in the first week. We can’t tolerate lateness.” Since you probably turned down other fantastic candidates to make space for the intern who is playing games on their phone or showing up late, there is likely no need to tolerate their behavior.

Step 4: Discover their Personal Training Goals

Don’t assume that your summer interns don’t have their own training goals. Many interns are eager to learn and learn more than you even expect. Once they are familiar with your organization, find out what they want to learn and why. Give them access to existing company training materials or make arrangements so they can job shadow other employees. Adjust your basic benchmarks to reflect your interns own training goals.

Step 5:  Celebrate their Success

Even if you’ve only had your intern on board for 8 weeks, if they were great, take time out to celebrate their success. Acknowledge their contributions on their final day. Also, use this an opportunity to provide a thorough final evaluation. If the internship worked out, expect to be asked for a reference letter in the near future. Before you forget about Phil, Sandeep, Maggie or Tan, take time out to write a short letter and file it away, so you’re not scrambling to remember last summer’s interns next February when they start looking for their next internship or first full-time position.

July 13, 2017   Updated :June 24, 2017      

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