How to Make Sure Your Interns Benefit from Your Program

Intern_in_MeetingInterns who finish their term with your company should feel like they just had an amazing learning experience. They should complete their time with you with real world skills they can use, either in your company or somewhere else. What is the easiest way to insure your intern gets maximum benefit from their time with you – and, most critically, so does your company.

Ask Them!

Find out your intern’s expectations. Flexibility is important, as the intern may need to learn some specific things to meet some school or career growth need. In most cases, meeting their needs and your needs will be best for both of you. The two of you should map out a growth plan for their time with you that should include expectations on BOTH sides. Then at the end of the term, an exit interview will allow you both to learn how well you both did. You may want to schedule mid-term interviews to make sure you are both meeting expectations.

Interns Should Have Full Access to Every Learning Opportunity and Tool

Of great value to both you and your intern is full access to your library of training information. You may have expensive marketing courses, copy-writing learning programs, business books, audiobooks and any other resources you have.

Ambitious interns will want to read and learn during the time they’re at the office, but many times will want to take materials home. They learn faster, and become more productive faster: win-win. It is quite possible that some of these materials would normally be out of their price range, so encouraging them to learn from your materials is good for both of you.

Initially, They Should “Shadow” Your Staff

If your intern and you want them to be able to create simple videos for web use, assign them to shadow and learn from your staff. From concept to script to storyboard through production and post-production – let them learn the process from front to back.

They should be in all the meetings. Don’t be afraid of revealing numbers or feel like you need to hide your “secrets.” Ultimately, your interns should be part of your success team. If necessary, have them sign a non-disclosure agreement, but do not keep them from learning opportunities.

Next, Real Projects

For the first few weeks of their time with you, it learning is their major role. Learning from videos, books or shadowing others in your company as they do their jobs. Asking questions and absorbing knowledge.

After a few weeks, however, it’s time for the training wheels to come off so your intern can become a productive member of the team and expand their learning to solve real problems and make real contributions to your company’s goals.

When this switch happens, your interns really become an asset for your company, and to themselves. This is why, in the last post, I said that you seriously may want to consider paying them instead of getting their help for nothing. In the beginning, of course, it will be slow going as they learn. Don’t be afraid, however, to let your interns fail – remember my saying, “Budget for Failure.” Let them learn and grow by working in the real world.

After each project they work on, ask them what worked and what they’d change next time. When we were building National Meetings for Minolta, we always followed each presentation with a, “post mortem” discussion so we could see what we did well, and what we wanted to improve. These sessions can work with your interns too.

One thing I learned when working with inexperienced people was not to tell them the solution, but ask questions that will lead them to the answer. Than kind of, “discovery” learning will last the longest – and benefit both you and the intern.

Interns are a wonderful resource, but if both you and the intern don’t benefit, you have wasted valuable company resources. As I have also said for many years, “Make sure you give your interns (or anyone else for that matter) what they need from you so you can get what you need from them.” When your interns see you as both their employer and their teacher, you both will get maximum benefit from their internship, and they become not just a gopher, but a productive and profit producing member of your team.

One of the greatest gifts you can give to anyone is the gift of attention. ~ Jim Rohn

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