Destination Directory

Working with Interns: 9 Tips for a Great Experience

Spring and summer bring the high school and college students out looking for summer internships—either as a way to make money or a way to fulfill a college credit requirement.

Interns hope to learn about their chosen industry through the jobs they perform, and employers hope to get some free or inexpensive help during the busy season.

Set expectations with Interns

I have had many interns over the years in my various positions. What I have learned is that it takes a lot of work on your part in the first half of the internship in order for it to be successful. Your intern deserves to get part of your time each day, in order to learn why they are doing the tasks you have assigned them. And it's ok to assign them scut work! It's important for them to learn that you are never above peeling labels, or collating brochures when there is a deadline. At the same time, they deserve to be assigned some projects that will look good on their resumes and help them to discover if this industry is for them.

Here are some reminders for employers and interns:

For employers working with interns:

  • Your intern is not a free employee. You are responsible for teaching them something every day and answering their questions. Have them document questions and answers. It will give you a tool to share with your next intern.
  • It is acceptable to hold them to the same standards as you would an employee, i.e. dress code, behavior standards at work and level of work quality.
  • You should try to take your intern to meetings or events outside the office setting. This broadens their horizons and makes you a hero in their eyes.
  • Be prepared to document their work and write a review at the end of the internship. This is easier if you keep a running journal or file on their work experience.

For interns working with a potential employer:

  • Remember that your actions and behaviors are being seen by a potential future employer or reference.
  • Offer to take on extra assignments and never say no when asked to perform a seemingly menial task. That kind of help will be remembered.
  • You are in an office setting, not a college classroom. Dress professionally. Ask your supervisor if you are not sure of the dress code. It's always better to be more professionally dressed than not.
  • Sometimes your employer will be busy and will not have the time to help you. Don't take it personally. Use your time to ask someone else for help or work on another project.
  • Is there a need you see that you can fix? I had an intern once who loved spreadsheets (crazy, right?!) and she asked if I would like her to put together a calendar of tradeshows with deadlines, what needed to be sent to each show and more. I never thought of it and it became part of my online SOP binder.
  • Send a handwritten thank you note at the end of your internship. They are rare and will be remembered.

I always learned as much from my interns as they did from their experience. So, thank you to Amanda, Hillary and Samantha, three of my favorite interns. They are the hardest working and most impressive young ladies I know. Your hard work always made me look good and I am proud to say they have all become very successful in their chosen fields.

Written by Sally Davis Berry.

This article was republished with permission and originally appeared at Sally Davis Berry.


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