9 Ways to Foster Great Intern Relationships

9 Ways to Foster Great Intern Relationships
Roni Rucker Waters
August 27, 2014
Trimming print materials

I have had the privilege of working with some impressive interns during my career, so I appreciate how mutually beneficial the position can be. Here is some of what I have learned along the way:  

  • Search broadly. Stay in recruiting mode even when you don’t have an opening. Look beyond the unsolicited resumes that come in and job fairs. Pay attention to the career aspirations of the young adult children of friends and colleagues. Ask about the siblings, friends and roommates of current or past interns. Don’t limit your search to college juniors and seniors. Some sophomores have just as much previous experience, and recent graduates are available right away if you offer them a full-time position.
  • Pay them. Even if it is minimum wage, show that you value your interns enough to pay them. If they are students, suggest that they consider getting course credit as well.
  • Set goals. Be clear and honest about the duties of the job, including time that will be spent running errands and performing clerical duties. Identify the most valuable skills or experiences the intern wants to gain to make the internship meaningful. Work together to make sure they happen.
  • Assign a project. The best way to assess skills is to give interns a project that they can call their own. You’ll be able to determine if they are self-starters, strategic thinkers, capable planners and can meet deadlines. You’ll also find out if they ask good questions, problem solve effectively and know when to ask for help. 
  • Provide regular feedback. Make a habit of checking in at the beginning and end of the day. Ideally, they will initiate check-ins and provide status reports. Make sure they have enough work to challenge, but not overwhelm, them. Have regular debriefs on assignments, provide side-by-side editing when possible and give them opportunities to improve work that falls short.
  • Set a good example. Think of it like teaching someone to drive; you need to exhibit good habits that the person can emulate.
  • Address work habits that don’t fit your office culture. Remember that this is a learning experience. Address issues of punctuality, clock watching, personal phone calls, Internet use, inappropriate work attire and any other behaviors that hurt their chances of success in your or any other workplace. These conversations don’t have to be uncomfortable if they are conducted quickly and matter-of-factly.
  • Hire the best ones. One of the main benefits of having interns is to assess skills and potential in your work setting, so don’t overlook interns when filling new or existing positions. 
  • Keep in touch. Whether they are going back to school or off to their first job, make good on your promise to stay in touch. LinkedIn is a great way to keep up with their career moves.