Getting the Most Out of Your Interns
May 11th 2016
By Samantha Lacher
Summer is for beach days, endless glasses of rose, the Friday afternoon exodus out of the concrete jungle, and… a new crop of interns!
Interns are a tremendous asset to staff, and truly maximizing their presence and ability to help in a meaningful way requires time, planning and ongoing effort put forth by their direct managers and company leaders. With a strong track record of smoothly transitioning interns to full-time, all-star Mfa employees, we thought we’d share a few tips to set up summer interns – and internship programs – for success.
- Get to know the interns in and out of your department. Like most employees, interns feel more invested in their teams and the company if they know the company is invested in them. Chatting with them on a personal level will also help you learn more about their interests, allowing you to find ways to pull them in on relevant projects that align with their passions down the line.
- Provide clear feedback that teaches them how to work effectively on a team. Remember that it might be your intern’s first time working in an office environment. They are likely as concerned about remembering everyone’s name and observing what is appropriate to wear in the workplace as they are about your client deadlines.
Encourage resourcefulness. Being able to provide a solution will likely be their most beneficial lesson learned. Make sure interns are looking for ‘a solve’, being proactive, and supporting rather than taxing the teams.
- Leverage the internship program to teach younger employees how to mentor and lead. Managing an intern is a terrific way for a greener employee to learn valuable lessons about patience, clarity, and teaching; that the person giving the assignment is ultimately responsible for the quality of the work; that not all tasks are suited for interns; and that they can likely learn a lot from interns’ perspectives and digital-savvy.
- Perhaps our most important tip: get an assignment list started weeks before the first interns are scheduled to begin, and keep it populated with fresh projects. Getting ahead of the potential assignments eases some of the initial pressure of simultaneously training new interns and making sure they have enough work to do. We’ve had success with a shared document for teams so multiple people can contribute assignments and workflow is continuous.
- Give interns ownership over projects. Make it clear that what they get out of an internship is directly related to what they invest in it, and providing them with meaningful projects throughout their experience creates clear goals and drives their motivation. Interns at Mfa have the opportunity to write press releases and pitches, craft social media posts, sit in on brainstorms and write out ideas, and even interact with journalists – all great ways for them to learn about PR, build their skills, and contribute work that truly supports the agency’s efforts.
- Create opportunities for interns to work together on projects to foster teamwork.
- Reiterate the importance of reading and learning. Each morning should include a scan of relevant industry sources, and interns should be responsible for sharing interesting articles with the team. Also a perk for staff who have an extra set of eyes looking for relevant news!
- And our favorite tip… Get interns out of the office. Bring them to photo shoots, tap your relationships to get tickets to night shows and arrange tours of magazine offices or other industry insider visits, find things for them to do to help at client events. These are the kinds of experiences that are fun and rewarding and truly enhance their time.
We all know that intern efficacy runs the gamut, from go-getters with tons of initiative and a strong desire to learn and contribute, to those who prioritize the line on their resume to actual experience. Regardless of the summer crop, we find these tips tried and true to making internships successful for interns and full-time staff alike.
By Samantha Lacher
Sam is a Director at Mfa, who joined the agency as an intern 11 years ago. Since then, she has interviewed and managed the intern program, and taught numerous other staff how to facilitate successful internship programs.