The other day I asked my intern Mark Robinson, a rising junior at Virginia Commonwealth University, to pick up a package for me from the mailroom and hang some flyers.
He willingly did it, and said to me, “Wow, that’s the most interny assignment you’ve ever given me.”
I took it as a backhanded compliment since the rest of the time he’s been creating videos, writing copy, attending meetings and learning about working in a global environment.
“I have opportunities to create products and give feedback,” he said. “There’s never a moment when I don’t have something to do.”
When offering internships, it’s good to treat interns as part of the team by enabling them to contribute and gain experience.
Here are a few steps to ensuring a student has a successful internship:
Treat the student as a valued employee. While I know I’m providing them with an opportunity to learn, I often learn many things from the students as well. Ask them to attend meetings and offer opinions.
Assign them real work. Before I even consider bringing an intern on board, I consult with my team and we develop a list of assignments. If we don’t have enough work, then we don’t hire an intern for that semester. At the end of a semester, I want the intern to have work product, whether it’s a press release, a story for the internal newsletter or developing a campaign plan.
Provide feedback on the work. I provide feedback to team members so it makes sense to provide feedback to an intern. I take it a step further and always offer to review the student’s resume. I can help them with the right words to use and the structure. I review lots of resumes so I know what stands out.
Interact with others. Don’t limit the intern to only interacting with one person. For each assignment Mark has, he has a different “boss.” This enables him to meet more members of the team and learn different work styles. He also learns about different career paths.
Mark will leave us in a few weeks. He’s headed to the University of Botswana. His life goal is to be a foreign correspondent. Interning with an international organization this summer gave him a taste of what to expect. He also learned about team effort, accountability and cohesion.
He benefited from the internship and so did the company. It’s a win-win and that’s what a good internship program should be.