It’s May, and colleges and universities are breaking for summer vacation. Soon the high schools will be letting out as well. Lots of young people will head for summer internships to learn something different about the world and earn a little money. Perhaps your agency will provide that kind of opportunity—maybe even with the hope of cultivating a future employee.
Last year, IA magazine, the IIABA members monthly, published an article on avoiding the legal pitfalls of using unpaid interns – a worthy consideration, along with other possible concerns that the presence of interns might complicate regular office routines and siphon off staff time because they need to be trained and supervised. But interns bring tremendous benefits.
Interns can contribute helpful support, lighten others’ workloads, and brighten up the office with their presence. Offering an internship is also an opportunity to provide an important social and learning opportunity for a young person getting ready to set out on their own life’s journey. You and your agency can do a lot to help launch that journey in a positive way.
Interns can be great advocates for your agency. Even if they’re playing a small, seemingly insignificant role, you can help them see the full extent of value they’re bringing to your organization.
You can show them that every time they’re engaged in some person-to-person contact—with fellow workers, customers, vendors, or anyone—there’s an opportunity to inspire good will with a cheerful attitude and give someone an unexpectedly positive experience. Radiating that kind of good will often gains the other person’s appreciation, but the important thing is cultivating a positive, helpful attitude, not focusing on the benefit you get in return.
For many young people, internships plant seeds of expectation. They create experiences that form the foundations for their future. A good experience with your company will inspire and empower the people working there. It will bring more confidence, and more know-how to their future employment – perhaps even at your agency.
Going beyond an understanding of the tasks they perform to see how their work fits into the bigger picture gives those young people a more global perspective of their usefulness. It also instills a sense of meaning, mastery and engagement that supports happiness – emotional and mental well-being.
The more you can provide an intern with the kind of work he or she is best suited for, the happier they’ll be and the more productive and valuable their contribution to your office.
Allowing your interns and your staff more flexibility and latitude in choosing not only which tasks and projects they’ll work on, but how (and perhaps where) they’ll work boosts energy, interest, and performance.
Try to include a broader range of options in job descriptions so individuals can relate to the things they like the most and do the best.
Finally, walk the walk. The very best way to teach interns is to model the right behavior—not only in respect to particular tasks and skills, but the whole sense of how to be a positive force at your workplace, and in the big world beyond it.