It’s no secret that when it comes to interns, our Marketing Director Nina knows how to lead. Ask any of her previous interns and they’ll be the first to tell you how Nina helped train them in skills for the office and beyond. Whether it was creating “brag books” or thoroughly explaining the ‘why’ and the ‘how’ for analytics, everything Nina did as a leader ultimately helped her interns succeed. We thought she’d be the perfect candidate to tell us her tips on how to be a great leader for your interns because at the end of the day, leaders work for their interns just as much as interns work for them!
Set SMART Goals
Often overlooked in the work environment, SMART goals (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely) should be set with every assignment. Before you dish out a task, make sure you have assessed if it meets all the components of a SMART goal. Make assignments as specific as possible! If your instructions are vague, this may leave your intern questioning their capabilities and feeling discouraged. Help them become knowledgeable of how you measure their success! This can be through analytics, completion or progress points. When they are aware of how they are being evaluated it acts as a rubric and gives them their best chance to hit goals.
We’ve all seen The Devil Wears Prada. Don’t hand out outrageous tasks that have a 0% likelihood of being accomplished. Consider all aspects such as intern personality type, their schedule, skills, and difficulty level of the assignment. After assessing these components, determine whether or not your task is realistic. Lastly, set a deadline! Everyone works differently, and that’s okay. Setting a deadline only gives your intern a finish line to cross, so they can pace themselves as need be.
You Work For Them, Too
Being the “boss” is so overrated! No one wants to work for someone that believes it’s all about them! Turn the tables and see what YOU can do for your intern. By providing your intern with tools and advice to be successful in their role, you increase the chances of receiving their very best work! Flipping the switch can also put you on a more approachable level, creating a sense of comfort between you and your intern. Just remember, your intern is there because of a company they love. Don’t ruin their experience by thinking they owe you something.
Be A Coach & A Cheerleader
Give them the best of both worlds and be their coach and cheerleader! Know that an internship is an educational experience and with that comes the opportunity to coach and help your intern overcome obstacles. Cheer them on and provide motivation every day and not just during times of success! More than likely, the most encouragement is needed in times of struggle. That motivational effort put forth by you is just what your intern may need to push them forward!
A small, kind gesture can go a long way! I always like to give my interns a random questionnaire to get to know their favorite color, coffee, and food! You never know when it will come in handy in the future when you try make their day!
Mix It Up
Let’s be honest, no one stays motivated by coming into work and completing the same task day after day. This is actually the surest way for your intern to resent their internship. Mix up their day and add a variety of tasks that still contribute to their learning environment, but don’t follow the same pattern. You never know what hidden talents your intern has until you let them venture out past their typical to-do list!
If your department is numbers heavy, let them take a break by coming with you to a meeting or visiting another department for a couple hours! Even though having them dabble in a different department might seem like a small thing, they might surprise you and come back with new skills that can contribute to your department. Remember, it is your job as their leader to make sure their internship is just as educational as it is fun by throwing in new things that keeps them on their toes!
Your intern is there because they love the company. Don’t ruin their experience by thinking they owe you something.
Make it Count
Help your interns see the bigger picture! Their internship experience is just an extension of their overall effort to enter their chosen industry. Keep track of their work and create something tangible they can take with them to their prospective jobs! I personally like my interns to create a “brag book” of all the tasks and skills they have acquired during their internship. That way, they have the best possible shot of snagging their dream job and having a one-up on their competition after they leave the internship!
Take An Interest
Some managers shake a finger at small talk, but a true leader understands the importance of the occasional small talk. Show an interest and get to know your intern as a person! Also allow your interns to get to know other co-workers and make friends. By doing so, it creates a sense of belonging in the work environment and allows their personality to shine through because they will be more comfortable.
Share Their Accomplishments
There is no better way to show your appreciation for your intern’s effort than to share their accomplishments with your team and management. Give credit where it’s due and be proud of your intern’s hard work! By sharing their accomplishments, this is an indication to them to continue doing what they are doing!
If your interns are coming to you with a question, it’s probably for a good reason. Be prompt in responding to their inquiries. Even if the question is something you’ve given the answer to a thousand times, don’t consider it less important than the very first time they asked you. Pro tip: if they come to you with a request that you know they won’t like the answer to, don’t ignore their question just because you don’t have the guts to answer them!
Support Them After They Leave
Just because their internship has ended, it doesn’t mean you stop being a mentor. You can still prove useful by checking in on them, providing them with references, and giving career advice! If you’ve built a quality relationship with your intern, don’t ruin it by closing the door just because they are not working directly with you. You never know what opportunities may arise in the future!