By Karen Axelton
Summer is winding to a close all too soon, but if you have summer interns on staff at your small business, there’s still time to get the most from them before they head back to school in the fall. As your summer interns end their service, it’s also a good time to review what went right (and wrong) with your interns so you can learn from the experience and improve your internship program in the future.
To get the most from your interns:
- Pair interns with employees who can show them the ropes, monitor their work and provide feedback. For most small businesses, you’ll only have a few interns, so it’s important that they have a “touchpoint” in the office who can guide them.
- Learn their strengths. Don’t look at interns as robots who are only good for filing or making coffee. By now, you should have a good idea of each intern’s strengths, so tailor their duties to fit their strong points.
- Give them some freedom. Your interns, too, should have learned the ropes by now, so if you haven’t already, assign them a more challenging project or give them a goal without spelling out every step of how you want them to handle it. See what approaches they come up with and how well they do.
- Monitor progress. You don’t want to set your interns adrift. Even though they’ve been with you for a while now, it’s still important to check in with them daily or at least weekly to see what they’re working on, update assignments and help them over any stumbling blocks.
To improve your internship program:
- At the end of the summer, gather feedback from everyone on your team who worked with the intern. What was good and bad about the experience? How could interns be used better or differently in the future? Are there other areas of your business that could benefit from interns?
- Get feedback from the interns. What did they like or dislike about working at your business? What did they learn? Interns can give you insights into your business that you won’t get from insiders, so listen up.
- Keep in touch. If an intern did especially well, you may want to consider offering him or her a part-time or full-time job in your business. Get contact information for interns you’d like to stay in touch with. You never know: Today’s intern could be tomorrow’s valued employee.
Image by Flickr user Travis Isaacs (Creative Commons)