Looking for future employees or gofers? How you prepare, work with, and treat interns directly reflects your firm. Internships are a crucial stepping stone into the real world, but more importantly the leadership style exhibited by a manager makes an intern's experience that of a good one to a life changing one.
Interns are a valuable asset to a company and act as advocates for the business in the real world. Use this opportunity to teach them what they need to know about working in the said industry. The training should not only be task oriented, but should be considered global application. Take the time to prepare for interns ahead of time. Set aside guidelines, detailed procedures and what is expected of their position and role in the firm. Teach them the big picture and background of the company. They should know the purpose of their tasks and how they are directly contributing to the growth of the company. Thereafter, the interns will gain a level of confidence to feel part of the team, and not shy away from gaining clarification and will become a contributing member of the company.
This is key as a manager. Divide up work and give clear guidance and resources on tasks without taking away creative freedom. Interns should be proud of the work they submit. It can sometimes be even more fulfilling for a manager to see interns take a project, run with it and make it their own, while still focusing on the end result.
After projects and tasks are completed, make sure to review and assess their work. Noting and walking through edits is essential in order for interns to learn. It is an extra step for a manager, but well worth it as the interns will never acquire the correct skills unless they know their mistakes and are given a chance to correct their work themselves. This will pay off in the long run and create a more efficient work style.
Try not to micromanage. If there are clear and established deadlines set in advance then it is not necessary to keep checking in. But it is important to be available, approachable and keep lines of communication open in case there are any questions or concerns with tasks the interns are working on. Identify and monitor priorities clearly and frequently if they change, especially within the first few months of adjusting to a new company. People are not mind readers, so establish beforehand that Priority 1 is expected to be completed by today, Priority 2 in three days, Priority 3 by the end of the week etc.
Encouragement goes a long way for someone just starting out in the workforce. It is necessary to let them know they are valued and where their strong suits lie. If they are not voluntarily taking on more responsibilities, encourage them to do so. They shouldn’t feel overwhelmed, but showing initiative will allow them to stand out. You brought them on as an intern because you saw their abilities and drive to work hard and succeed, so continue to push that growth and don’t let them lose sight of that ambition.
Level two energy in “Energy Leadership” is the most common energy level found in the workplace and is identified by conflict. Often times a person demonstrating this catabolic energy has a high level of frustration and works with the attitude of “I win. You lose.” These managers can be very successful, but will step on anyone to get to where they want to be. Have a win-win attitude, and work together to get to the top.
Do not forget who and what got you to where you are. Several successful CEO’s (e.g. Steve Jobs) started off as interns and had to experience working for a company from the ground up. Don’t let a title get to your head and don’t become too big for your own boots. This will only diminish respect and confidence, and create a more hostile atmosphere.
Don’t consider interns cheap labor. They are not meant to just do tasks that you don’t feel like doing such as photocopying and shredding. They need to know the administrative tasks of a business, but the position should go beyond that. First and foremost they are there to learn and create fundamental building blocks for their future positions. Make sure that every task given has a purpose and allows them to benefit from the experience.
Do not instruct one thing, but then do another. You need to lead by example. Your team is watching you at all times. If you want to shape their behavior, start with your own and they'll follow suit.
Don’t be negative or turn the interns down when they need help or don’t understand something. No question is a dumb question. Make time for them even if your workload is overwhelming. Learn to be a “Yes Person.” Don’t claim you are available and then spend every working hour in meetings or out of the office. Work around your schedule to be accessible when needed.
By taking the time to invest in your interns you will instill in them the values and integrity you withhold in your company. In turn, they will show their loyalty and produce great work.
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