I was fortunate early in my career to land internships that taught me valuable job skills, as well as life lessons. One day I hoped that I could offer internships, and I have been fortunate to do so almost everywhere I have worked. If the company didn’t have a formal internship program, I pushed to start one.
Working with interns, though, requires lots of preparation and effort if the experience is to pay off for both the intern and the company.
Here are some things I’ve learned along the way:
- Develop a list of assignments that add value to the student’s career. As the director of a media and PR team, that means assigning the students media releases to research and write. I also ask them to compose tweets and conduct online research.
- Don’t just mark up the text and return it to the interns. Instead take time to explain the edits and why they were made. Discuss AP style, good grammar and your in-house style. Help them to write strong leads, headlines that capture a person’s attention and quotes that add clarity to the story.
- Create learning modules. Each module should provide a high-level overview of an area in which they will be involved. Examples include “Nose for News” and “Creating a Newsworthy Tweet.” These modules provide the basics from which they can build.
- When you are responsible for special activities or campaigns, involve them. For example, we recently held a news conference and had our intern join us. She handed out media kits. She also learned about the preparation that goes into a news conference and what considerations are needed for media, including camera angles. The most important lesson was to not leave anything to chance.
- Students need to understand the importance of being on time, keeping supervisors informed and meeting deadlines. Discuss best business practices with interns so they understand the implications if they don’t deliver.
- The best tip is to learn from them. While I want to teach students strong communications skills and best business practices, I also enjoy learning from them. Students offer a unique perspective. During one discussion about Twitter and how photos are good to include with tweets, one of my students noted that when we tweet about an expert’s work, we should include a photo. Why didn’t I think of that?