7 Things Your Millennial Interns Need To Be Successful
Most professionals started off their experience with an internship or two. Yet it’s almost laughable how many seem to have forgotten what it was like by the time they are running their own internship program. At the very least though, many remember being paid, or being hired on at the company afterwards. Millennials’ experience with internships has been somewhat different. I remember expecting my internships as a college student to consist of grunt work, and I was willing to do my time at the bottom in order to learn. But the reality was that I wasted my time doing data entry and Twitter posts with no training, no feedback, no attention (or money) paid to me, and no job upon graduation despite graduating with honors, connections, awards, and internships under my belt. This has become increasingly normal among internship programs, which is really a shame, as students have a lot more to offer than we give them credit for and they are eager to learn.
As a marketing professional now, running my first internship program at Motoza, I based our program on a simple question: what would I have appreciated having, doing, or learning in my internships that I didn’t get? I narrowed it down to seven major things that are a must for your internship program, will help grow your students into professionals ready for the workforce, and will make your interns more productive contributors to your team.
This sounds like a given, but trust me, it’s not. I graduated with three internships under my belt, but was never actually trained at any of them. I was handed a bunch of assignments that amounted to little more than social media posts and data entry, which were things I already knew how to do. I experienced client interaction at only one of them, and no feedback about my work from any of them. I’m sure not all internships are handled the way mine were, but nevertheless, I know I would’ve greatly appreciated some training so that I could handle higher level assignments. Providing that to my own interns not only made them feel far more confident in the assignments I gave them, but also paid off in the end for me, as I was able to assign them higher level tasks. Take the time to train your interns. It WILL be better for everyone in the long run.
Here’s another one that should go without saying, but I’ve been surprised how many people I’ve met say that they didn’t get this in their internships. Don’t just review assignments and fix them yourself. Let your interns know how they did and then let them fix the errors themselves. This is not the same thing as constructive criticism, mind you. This is both positive and negative. Instructional, and observational. It’s also your way of determining your intern’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as how your intern learns.
I would’ve loved to just sit in on a few meetings at my internships to learn how to speak to clients. The one internship that I was allowed in the meetings, I learned so much more about the job than when I was relegated to social media duty. Of course, I was just a fly on the wall in those meetings. I opted to experiment with allowing my interns to participate in client meetings (though questions were saved until after), and found that they grew comfortable with the client work far more quickly once they saw how their work was being implemented, and more importantly, how it was helping the client. Without this client interaction, they otherwise had a hard time seeing the bigger picture of what agency work is for, which leads me to my next point.
- Learning about the bigger picture
Crucial. Your intern’s work will improve significantly the quicker they learn what the point of the work is. This will also demonstrate very quickly what kind of workers they are, i.e. if they are leaders and innovators or the types who just want to be handed an assignment, finish it, and call their day done. If you can train your interns how to think rather than just how to do, they will go a lot further a lot quicker, and will be far better prepared for the workforce upon graduation.
- Abstract assignments
You’d be surprised what your interns are capable of. In fact, you won’t know what they’re capable of until you give them a harder project to work on. After most of the training was out of the way, I tried assigning some more in depth and abstract projects to my interns, empowering them to set up internal meetings, ask for help if they need it, but otherwise to run the project how they saw fit (with my support and supervision of course). This definitely stretched their abilities, but I saw much quicker growth, and definitely more ownership of the job when I did this. Essentially, offer your interns multiple different ways to test their merit.
In order to be successful when assigning more challenging projects, you have to provide your interns with support. If they are afraid of failing, making a mistake, looking foolish, or just not doing a good job, they likely won’t do a good job. Letting them know that you have their backs, and that they can come to you if they need anything can make or break the actual project. I found having my interns present their work to me before I reviewed it encouraged them to do a better job on the project. It also enabled them to explain their thinking to me so that I could provide proper feedback and training.
- Valued members of the team
Interns who feel like they are actually contributing something valuable are far more likely to contribute something valuable. And they are valuable. You hired them. Train them. Support them. Trust them. And they will bend backwards for you. Millennials especially often just want to know that what they doing is appreciated and actually needed. Let them know what their work is being used for. The other side of this is internally. Treat them as though they are permanent members of the team even if the internship is limited. Let them feel like they are “one of us”.