How to make the most of an intern
Hiring an intern can be an easy decision but, as any manager knows, how to best utilize one can be tricky business.
“Planning is key when embarking on an internship program in order for it to be successful for the employer and the intern,” says Janet Boston, executive director of Indiana INTERNnet, a 501(c)3 organization managed by the Indiana Chamber of Commerce.
“Prepare to be amazed. Interns work quickly, so have backup projects on hand,” says Sandy Alvarez, senior associate for employer engagement at the Center of Workforce Innovations, Inc.
An internship is defined as a form of structured and supervised experiential learning that provides new or young workers practical experience in their chosen fields. There are three basic types of internships: traditional, which typically coincides with an academic semester; project based, with its duration determined on a project’s scope; and virtual, which is done remotely with periodic checkpoints to eliminate geographic barriers.
A successful internship, regardless of length of time, should be a win-win for both employer and intern. Too often, however, companies hire an intern without a plan in place and end up wasting both parties’ time, efforts and hopes for future internships.
“The best thing for managing interns is to treat them like employees,” says Tom Maloney, vice president of radio operations for Lakeshore Public Media. “They’re not there to be coffee runners, or to pick up your dry cleaning. They’re there to learn, to help your company, and maybe become a co-worker very soon.”
“For many, it’s their first experiences in the real world, so a business climate is something they’ve never dealt with,” he adds. “If you treat them with respect, you’ll help them more than you could ever know.”
In Indiana, an automotive plant intern saved the company $66,000 through a self-developed efficiency strategy, an accounting intern worked his way up to senior accountant in two short years, and a communications company intern created a speech recognition application that attracted world-wide attention for a number of medical innovations, according to Indiana INTERNnet.
“Students today come with a unique set of skills and ideas,” says Alvarez, whose agency works extensively with Indiana INTERNnet to promote internships in Northwest Indiana. “If the person managing the intern sets up the framework and allows the intern to use their ideas and skill sets to complete tasks, the projects will more than likely move to completion and may even be cutting edge.”
Boston says, “It is imperative that the work assigned to the intern is meaningful, or the outcome will not be positive for either party.”
“I have my interns in the first week or so write out a list of goals and things they want to accomplish,” Maloney says. “I base a lot of my work on that, along with things they wouldn’t have thought of.”
“If the intern is enjoying their time, and seeing a benefit to being there, they’ll keep up the good work,” he says. “If you’re running them into the ground, and forcing them to work the full shift, then you’re likely going to have kids burning out.”
a dynamic, searchable database, matching and reporting system coupled with personal assistance—including a hotline to answer questions and provide internship guidance and resource materials. For more information, contact Indiana INTERNnet at 317-264-6852 or visit indianaintern.net.