Interns can sometimes get a bad rap. Some show up to get their college credit and leave; others seem to never leave the break room. But with the right fit, interns can really be the best. I supposed I’m a little biased…I am one.
With all the uncertainty involving the coronavirus, some businesses made difficult, but understandable, decisions to postpone summer internship programs. I am fortunate enough to belong to the small group of those who were able to continue this valuable learning experience. From the day I stepped into the Frances Roy Agency, I felt essential – not expendable. Real learning and real challenges happen here every day. Shantelle Dedicke and the whole team have embraced me as one of their own, knowing full well that my role might not be an extended one.
The life of an intern is exciting and challenging if you allow it to be so. Yes, there are days when you “just” compile a list of national holidays. But what if that list is the launching pad for a host of social media ideas for clients over the next year? Yes, it can be challenging to enter into a well-established team dynamic and feel connected, knowing you might leave again in a few short months. But what if you don’t leave? And what if that’s the magic of it — soaking up all you can from incredible people and knowing they will forever have a role in your professional and personal development? Knowing my impact at this agency could extend beyond my time of employment there gives me an extra sense of purpose and excitement every day.
My favorite part about being an intern is occupying a role where I can both take in and share knowledge freely. Most of my day, I am actively learning from the rest of the team. There are just a few short months to pick up as much practical wisdom and expertise as possible from people who have been at this longer than I have. But at the same time, there’s an equal opportunity to share my unique experiences with them. Most of them haven’t been immersed in the college/academic atmosphere for several years. So, I have an opportunity to share what I know about how students are transitioning to our profession and what we really need from employers. (It’s not all serious stuff…there’s definitely some TikTok, enneagram, and pop culture tutorials happening, too.)
Internships could look very different in the near future. Some organizations are switching to fully online operations; others are still reeling from the economic fallout of the coronavirus. While these changes could certainly affect the form of an internship, they don’t have to affect the core experience. The greatest internships have some commonalities:
Creativity: Many interns walk into your office with a syllabus that says “Complete 200 hours at your place of work and write a final paper about your experience.” Boring! The best way to break interns out of the academic mold is to show them the dynamic atmosphere of the professional world. Even if your intern’s job description is more simplistic, find ways to make the position more than punching the clock.
Connection: Make your intern(s) feel “part of the team.” Not just on the first day when they get a free notebook, but when they get invited to team outings. When they feel heard at meetings. When they get to tell you about their personal goals and ask questions about your life experiences. Your interns will value your expertise even more when they understand how much you care about them.
Challenge: “They never should have trusted me with this…but look how great it turned out.” In previous internships and in my current position, my most rewarding experiences came from completing assignments I thought I had no business even attempting. Chances are, you know more about the capabilities of your intern(s) than they do. Call out that ability and challenge them to achieve outside their comfort zone.
If you’re an employer, make sure these traits make up the essence of your internship program. If you’re a potential intern, don’t settle for anything less. You won’t regret it.