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The idea of having an intern is great – a college student in the office to fetch your coffee and handle small but time-consuming tasks. The reality of managing interns is a bit different. We’re focusing on the best practices for managing interns to make it a mutually beneficial relationship.

 

Prepare Before Hiring

Yes, the idea of having an intern sounds great. But before you hire one, make sure that you need an intern in your business. The best place to start is by making a list of tasks that you would assign to an intern, along with the time commitment that you would expect for those tasks. These should go beyond making coffee and sort office supplies and should include tasks that will help interns develop professional skills.

When you have your list, you can start to develop a structure that will be beneficial for both you and the interns. It might be convenient to have someone on hand to pick up tasks whenever they come up, but that isn’t the best use of an intern’s time. Create a structure that includes ongoing projects, along with setting goals for your intern. This will help them stay on task, give them the feeling of being valuable to the organization, and will make it possible to evaluate their performance.

 

Be in Contact
 

Just like hiring any new employee, hiring an intern should start with the process of introducing them to the company and being clear about expectations. Unlike other new employees, an intern will likely have very little previous work experience or none at all. The best practices for managing interns start with those initial conversations and the training you give them in their first days.

As time goes on, it’s important to remain in contact with your interns. Schedule regular check-ins to be sure that they’re staying on track, completing tasks, and learning from the experience. Check in on the projects they’re working on and be sure to ask what you can do to help them.

 

Having Meaningful Tasks Ready

The initial list of tasks you created before hiring an intern is a good starting point. Beyond that, you’ll want to have tasks and projects your intern can work on. Delivering coffee and making copies will only take so much time and won’t offer anything of value to the intern. Look for ways that you can involve them in major projects and day to day activities. In the process, you’ll lighten the workload of your full-time employees and help your intern learn and grow.

To make the most of your intern’s time, get to know them. During one of your one on one meetings, ask about their background, what they’re studying, and their professional goals. Try to find tasks to put their skills into action to help the business, as well as giving them opportunities to jump into projects that will give them skills that will be useful in their career after leaving your company.

 

Include Them in All Areas

It might be difficult to find tasks for an intern in one specific area. Open them up to the entire company. Send out an email describing the type of tasks you want to give to the intern and the skills they have to offer. Let the different departments describe where they might be able to use extra help.

This will achieve two things. First, you’ll be able to take some of the strain off of each department by delegating tasks to another person. Second, you’ll be giving your intern a better view of what happens in the company by making them feel like a part of the team. Rather than acting as an assistant for one person, they can float from one department to the next and get a more well-rounded experience.

 

Act as a Mentor
 

Bringing in an intern is a great way to gain extra help in your business and take some tasks off of your own plate. Equally important is the experience that you can offer to the intern. In addition to being their boss, it’s important to act as a mentor to them in the first professional setting. Take the time to ask them questions, give them guidance, and share the knowledge you’ve developed throughout your own professional life.

There is a benefit for you in the time and resources you sink into your interns. When you set up an excellent internship program, your company will develop a more attractive reputation. More interns will take an interest in your program which means you’ll be bringing in great candidates. Those interns could become excellent full-time employees when their internship ends.

 

Conclusion

Adding an internship program to your business can be beneficial for everyone involved, as long as you’ve taken the time to plan and execute the program the right way. With the best practices for managing interns above, you can enjoy the benefits of extra help in the office while giving interns the work experience they’ll be able to use for years to come.

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Jess Barnes | Jess has a passion for helping small business owners build their brands and connect with their customers. She writes about money, tech, and marketing for blogs and businesses.