How to make the most out of interns while teaching them a thing or two

By Priyanka Gupta|29th Nov 2016
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To get a job, one needs experience, and to gain experience, one needs a job. This vicious cycle was thought to be broken by the advent of internships. However, this isn’t happening the way it should. Many times, interns are caught up in offices doing clerical work, either filling out Excel sheets or cleaning up the files. Sometimes, employers are justified in giving them that kind of work — could be because of the load, or simply because the interns might not be qualified to handle the real work that the company is doing.

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However, this has changed. Interns are starting to become the success ingredient for companies. They are young, energetic, full of new ideas, and willing to learn.

As leaders/managers, if you can take out time for your interns, you might be able to leverage their efforts and channelise them in the manner that’s best for company and personal growth.

This can be done by not just becoming the reporting manager but becoming a mentor to your intern.

Here are some ways you can add to the growth of your intern as well as extract the work they were hired for:

Documentation

You may want to think about getting your interns to document things for you or the company. This way, they learn formal writing and understand the nuances of business very well. Also, using the interns’ help, you can create templates/formats of internal communication.

Meetings

Unless they are super confidential, we suggest you ask your intern to assist you in all sorts of meetings. This way, they get a really good idea of the business operations, interdepartmental dependencies, seriousness and nature of work that your company does.

This may lead the intern to also take this clerical job seriously as he will understand now how he fits into the big picture of the business.

Teamwork

Always make the intern work in a team. A new fish in the pond will feel lost and take more time to learn its way around. However, when it finds another school of fish, collective living helps it to learn faster and deliver better.

Spend time with the interns

Take out some time once a week to spend with your interns. Create a nice, friendly environment for them. This help you know better their strengths or areas of interest and you can arrange for projects that drive them. Become their mentor.

Advance and Excel

Do not teach your interns what to think; instead, teach them how to think. Involve your interns in critical thinking tasks even if you do not think it’s necessary. Also, if you feel they need to scale up their Excelskills, help them do that. If the interns are already pros at Excel, you might ask them to perform analytics. This will take them deeper into their areas of interest.

There will be times when things do not go right in internships, whether from your end or the interns’. Mistakes are inevitable; what counts is the attitude. Give your interns room to make mistakes and learn from them. Having said that, also take care to pull your interns out if they are drowning.

Aim to be a mentor; you will also surely learn a few things in the process.

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