Getting the Most Out of Your Interns

As school begins, here at Eckel & Vaughan we are eagerly preparing for our fall 2017 interns to arrive. We’ve invested a lot of time and energy in developing an internship program that is meaningful, thoughtful, and beneficial for both interns and our employees. Here are the top seven lessons we’ve learned along the way.

1 Set expectations—with interns and your co-workers.

Before your interns ever set foot through the door, it’s important you set expectations for their internship. What is their primary responsibility? What hours are they expected to work? Will they be paid or earn course credit? This will help avoid any potential confusion. Setting expectations with your co-workers is equally important. Make sure they understand which tasks are intern-appropriate from the start.

2 Prepare before your interns arrive.

There’s nothing worse than realizing on an intern’s first day that you have nothing for them to do. Before they begin, create a list of intern projects that you’ll need help with during their first few days. You should also develop a list of ongoing projects that will keep interns busy when they have downtime throughout the semester.

3 Set goals and provide check-ins.

On our interns’ first day, after providing background and an introduction to the program, we have each intern set individual goals for their semester. This allows interns to let you know what they hope to gain from their internship, and it gives you the opportunity to help them meet those goals. Schedule regular check-ins (monthly, midsemester, etc.) to monitor and support their progress.

4 Set them up for success.

Most interns are students accustomed to course outlines filled with a series of class projects. At Eckel & Vaughan, we replicate this structure by requiring a set of tangible deliverables. Each of our interns reads a book, writes a blog post, gives a presentation to our team, and owns a project from start to finish. These four items not only provide tangible goals, they also offer interns projects to work on during downtime. We measure their success in part by completion of each of these projects.

5 Give them items to build their resume.

No one likes busy work. And while many interns recognize this is part of the deal, they don’t let it dominate their experience. Find projects that allow interns to show off the skills they’ve learned in school. Can they help create social content? Do you manage a blog that could use additional posts? These tangible items will make great additions to their portfolio, and the experience will give them specific achievements to talk about in future job interviews. At Eckel & Vaughan, we set specific deliverables for each of our interns.

6 Make them feel like part of the team.

They’re interning with you to get a preview of the workplace so they’re prepared to walk into a full-time job after graduation. That not only means worthwhile projects, but the workplace experience, as well. Take them to lunch with the team. Give them background on their projects. Remember to explain your office’s inside jokes (when appropriate, of course!). The more your interns feel a part of the workplace, the better the work you’ll get in return.

7 Interns have a unique perspective.

Interns can provide valuable insights about your work. Sometimes a fresh perspective is the key to a successful project. Interns not only bring a new set of eyes to the table, but they offer their unique perspective on the world. They may have learned a new way to approach your work in one of their classes, or their familiarity with the latest trends will open the door for work you didn’t expect.

Interns can provide great support for your team—if you make the most of them. We hope these tips will help you prepare for the coming semester. Interns, stay tuned for a post on how to make the most of your internship this year.