GLAD WORKS on the Care and Feeding of Interns.

In our blog post about Game of Thrones, we talked about how young or inexperienced people like interns and new hires can bring a lot to your business. GLAD WORKS usually has at least one intern present at any given moment, so we have a lot of experience working with them to help them make the most of their time with us. We think it’s important to talk about them today because the word “intern” seems to be becoming synonymous with “free labor.”  That’s not the case at all, and treating it that way cheats the business and the intern out of a very valuable experience.

Let’s talk about how to properly nurture an intern for a mutually beneficial relationship!

Know their goals

Many employers go on to hire their interns, so choosing carefully can be a great investment in the future. That’s why you should always make sure you interview interns before taking them on. You need to know what they’re hoping to get out of the experience. Sometimes people choose internships based on how it will look on their resume, but they may not actually be interested in what you do. If you wind up with that situation, you’ll lose the chance to bring an enthusiastic and original thinker on board. Understanding what an intern needs and determining whether or not you can fulfill those needs is a sure way to find people who will learn and grow with you.

Give them variety

Having an intern is great because you can give them some tasks that don’t require a whole lot of expertise, and that frees you up to take on some bigger things. But it wouldn’t be fair to saddle them with only those small things. Bring them to meetings, let them shadow you and take part in the more exciting parts of your business too. They need to see all sides if they’re thinking about what career path to take.

Feed them--literally.

Keep in mind that while these folks are with you, they’re NOT somewhere else earning money at a job. Unless they’re incredibly lucky, they’re fairly penniless at this time in their lives, so keep that in mind. Maybe have a pizza day, or if you can afford it, take your intern out to lunch. If you’re strapped for cash yourself, coffee and a muffin would be a nice gesture, too. Feeding people is always a great way to build bonds and show appreciation.

Don’t assume they learned things in school

How often do you use things you learned in college during your job? How much of it actually applies to your daily work life in some direct way?  Sometimes it absolutely does, but other times what’s taught in the classroom doesn’t resemble the real world at all. When you’re giving your intern instructions, never assume they know what you’re talking about. Explain yourself very clearly and then make sure they understand what they’re doing. You don’t want to set someone off on a task and then find out later that they were clueless. You’ll have to go and clean up the mess, plus you’ll probably make your poor intern feel like a doofus. That said; don’t be afraid to challenge them…

Throw them to the wolves!

(…and there goes any chance that we’ll ever see another intern in here again!)

Seriously though, this is not to say that you need to torture your poor intern, but don’t be afraid to give them safe challenges. Assign something that puts them to the test and forces them out of their comfort zone. Quite frequently, we don’t know how strong we are until we’ve been to hell and back. Be there to support them and guide them, but let them struggle a little bit too. Of course, don’t ever do this with something that could really mess things up if it goes badly. It’s just never a bad thing to strain the brain a little bit. 

Perhaps the most important thing to remember about having an intern is that if the match is right, it can be a mutually beneficial relationship. They get to see what life is like in the real world and learn from your wisdom. You get the benefit of their enthusiasm and just maybe the chance to sculpt and mold a future employee.

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