Five Tips for Working With Interns

Summer break is here and students are off from colleges and universities until the new semester starts! Most of these students look for internship opportunities in organizations where they think they will be able to learn and nurture their capabilities. Every intern wishes to go home loaded with knowledge and learnings from the day. But how do companies and employers deal with interns? That’s a question that gets mixed answers.

Five Tips for Working With InternsAs refreshing as it may be to get fresh students on board, mostly companies do not utilize these resources adequately. Eliza Cussen in Women’s Agenda gives 5 simple tips for working with interns and they say,
Know the law
The Fair Work Ombudsman’s internship factsheet states that “The main benefit of a genuine work placement or internship should flow to the person doing the placement.” This means that the main purpose of hiring an intern is to help train the next generation of workers in your industry. If you’re hoping an intern can help share the load, you’re better off hiring an assistant.

Define the terms

At the recruitment stage establish what each candidate hopes to learn and work out how you can help. Lay out carefully what the intern role involves and try as best you can to make it fit the kind of job your intern will graduate into. Every task has to teach them something. Fetching coffee or folding 1000 A4 sheets into 1000 DL envelopes is off limits.

That being said, perhaps the most valuable thing I learnt in my year of interning was simply how to function in an office. I learnt how to talk to people, how to present ideas, how to work a damned fax machine. I learnt to get stuck in and get the job done without any “that’s not in my job description” preciousness. If coffee had to be fetched for a client, I volunteered to fetch it. Need someone to wait on hold with the courier company for an hour? I’m your girl; I can fold those letters while I wait. It’s those skills, as much as HTML or budgeting that I count on every day. The difference is that as an intern I wasn’t compelled by my bosses to fetch coffee simply because I was an intern, I did it because it needed to be done.

Set boundaries

As an intern, I would have gladly spent a day at my supervisors’ heels, begging for guidance and praise like a six month old labrador. You may find that an intern not only requires more training, but also more recognition. In employment, the worker has their paycheque to remind them they are valued. An intern, someone who is just finding their feet, has no such reassurance. To maintain morale while preventing the training of an intern from eating into your productivity set aside time for training and outside of that encourage independent work.

Be sensitive to student poverty

My year of interning was the poorest of my life. I’d be working by day, applying for jobs at night and doing trial shifts at cafes on weekends. While some interns might be sitting pretty on their parents’ dimes, many will be in the same position I was. This doesn’t mean that you have to buy them lunch but being aware that the professional lifestyle comes with a price tag that an intern can barely afford is important. Expecting them to go out to lunch or shout coffees is an extravagance they probably can’t cover so be considerate.

Manage expectations

Internships can feel like the job interview that never ends. Sometimes this is accurate and, like a pot of gold, there’ll be a job at the end of it. But this is never a guarantee. Be upfront about the intern’s chances of progressing to paid employment. By limiting their expectations, you can take the pressure off and help him or her make the most of the opportunity to train. If you’re not going to keep them on but you’re still impressed, do them a favour and suggest other places to apply, or email their CV to a few contacts.

Ultimately, the goal is to nurture these interns into the next generation of working individuals. To help them become better professionals. To train them into being responsible employees. Rather than dumping them with your work and heading off to long lunch breaks or coffees! How do you treat your interns? Share with us in the comments below!

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