It’s that time of year again. The crisp spring air gives way to longer, warmer nights. The kids are preparing for summer break and college students are returning home looking for opportunities. If you are a business owner, no doubt your phone has already begun to ring with eager workers on the other end of the phone. Finding, working with and mentoring interns can be a great experience. It can also be time consuming and lacking in reward. Either way you look at it, at some point you will work with an intern or two.
I believe mistakes only happen when no lessons are acquired. In our business as well during my time in corporate America I have trained plenty of interns. I have seen some go on to be hired as full time employees. Other I have seen who barely lasted their tenure of the summer break. In all, I have learned a few best practices on dealing with interns. Here are five mistakes to avoid:
1. Become too familiar and begin to expect friendships: When you acquire the services of an intern, it should never be for selfish reasons. Your job is to create a professional environment. Too often we seem to want to another family member.
2. There is not a clear agenda or job description: Why are they there? You should be able to answer this long before you bring them on. Just because most interns are young and do not have a lot of responsibilities is no reason to waste their time.
3. Give access to sensitive information: An intern is not a permanent employee. There should be checks and balances in place to protect any sensitive information about your business or clients. Can you imagine the embarrassment you could suffer if a client’s privacy was breached by an intern?
4. Require a full time employee work load: Keep in mind the concept of an intern. There should be a mutual benefit in place. You benefit from the added assistance, but they should benefit from the chance to learn from your expertise. You can’t expect to work them like a dog for free and then allow them to walk away short changed.
5. Never find out their goals or expectations: Everyone wants something. Internships are no different. As you consider interns, ask real questions. Find out where they want to go and what they want out of life. See yourself as a bridge for them. This could be an incredible opportunity for growth.
In Latin, the word intern is ‘internus’ and simply means, between another. It gives the ideal that this person works ‘between’ others as they learn and perfect a particular skill. That’s exactly what should be happening with every intern we bring aboard. It’s not free labor or a person to make all the coffee runs for the office. These are individuals we have the chance to touch in a profound way.
Written by: Cherese Jackson