Summer is almost here and millions of young college students and graduates are looking for summer internship positions. I have often asked young people I meet if they know and can fully explain exactly what their parents do for a living. Sadly, most of them don’t know and have never been to their parents’ place of work. So summer internships offer students an opportunity to learn first-hand what working in a business environment really is like. Because many students have never been in a professional work setting they are unfamiliar with the requirements, responsibilities, and expectations that work brings.
Make summer internships count! Summer internships can benefit you as much as they do your interns. Internships provide business leaders with an opportunity to instruct, mentor, and mold young minds. It’s a great opportunity to be an example of ethical and admirable business practices while providing a life-long positive experience about what work can be if the right attitude, structure, and support are provided.
1. Summer internships can be an investment in your company's future
You get first shot at hiring the best and brightest when they graduate.
2. Attitude matters
If you view interns as being “lambs to the slaughter," then the student's experience and outcome will not be a positive one. “You get what you give” runs both ways. If you express interest in educating them, teaching them and in turn getting their input, insight, and suggestions, then an internship can be the first and most important step in their career path.
3. Don’t just expect, but require their participation
Every summer my staff and I learn something from our interns. Whether it’s the latest social media programs, or easier and better ways to use Excel, I have never had a competent intern that has not left us working smarter and faster. Ask them what they think about what they’re doing, if they understand why, and what they think can be improved – and how.
4. "Why" Matters
If you explain the significance and importance of the tasks you assign, the student will be more engaged and responsible. If you explain that entering the wrong contact data means you may not be able to reach a client in a timely way, they’ll understand the importance of even seemingly unimportant tasks such as data entry. If you explain that typos and mistakes effect how you and your firm are perceived by the public, they’ll pay closer attention to getting things right the first time.
5. Work can be mundane, get used to it!
Every task isn’t going to sexy or exciting, but that’s part of the learning process too. Interns are of great service in getting projects done that you haven’t had time to get to; they can take on those tasks that you’ve been meaning to get started or have not finished. Whether it’s creating or maintaining a database for existing or prospective clients, scanning all those documents that need to be taken out of filing cabinets, or just reorganizing the supply closets, the internship is also a lesson that no matter the industry, work isn’t always as sexy as it may seem from the outside. All of us know this, but a young person may think otherwise and there’s no time like the present to teach them those hard learned lessons.
6. Give feedback
This is a chance for interns to learn from you and for you to be a catalyst for their future success or failure in business. It’s a disservice when you accept shoddy work, poor performance or slovenly dress. Don’t accept or chalk up unacceptable behavior to sheer youth. Tell them what they’re doing right and what they’re doing wrong – and then how to improve it.
An internship offers a powerful experience for both the student and the company hosting them – what you make of it for them is a powerful footprint in their experience of what work is and what their career path can hold for them – so make it count for all involved.
Make summer internships count!