For young professionals, internships can be critical steps on the path to career success. This year, employers plan to hire more interns than they did last year, and it's important for these companies to understand how to best manage their new interns.
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In my time at Jibe, Percolate, and now at WayUp, I've learned that great intern managers are patient, approachable, and positive. I've also learned about the common mistakes that intern managers make – which you can check out below:
1. Not Asking Interns About What They Want From the Experience
Transparency is key. You cannot best guide your interns until you know what they want out of the experience.
This conversation can occur via email before an intern starts or in a one-on-one meeting during the intern's first day. Ask them where they see themselves in five years and/or what kinds of skills they want to hone during their internship. While you might not be able to give every intern the exact experience they want, you'll be able to serve them well as long as you understand their preferences, curiosities, and areas of interest.
2. Not Setting Clear Goals and Expectations
At WayUp, we set objectives and key results (OKRs) for all employees. You should do the same for your interns in order to connect their work to the company's overall strategic plan. This will not only make interns feel like they are significantly contributing, but it will also help them clearly see what is expected of them. If you don't set clear expectations from the beginning, you won't be able to track your interns' progress or give them actionable feedback.
3. Not Checking in Enough – or Checking in Too Much
Remember that every intern is different, as is every manager. This is why setting an appropriate check-in cadence from the start is crucial.
Very few managers figure out the perfect check-in schedule, which can lead to communication issues and frustration for both parties. I suggest starting off with a 30-minute weekly check-in to talk through the intern's problems and progress. See if this check-in frequency works for the both of you; if not, adjust as necessary.
4. Giving Feedback That Isn't Constructive
The feedback you give should always provide interns with guidance and/or redirection. Saying something like, "This deck isn't as thorough as it needs to be," doesn't help; it offers no suggested changes or any explanation as to why the deck isn't thorough. It's up to you to give your interns direction so that they can learn from their mistakes and produce better work for you and your team.
5. Forgetting to Be a Mentor in Addition to a Manager
Many interns are new to the workforce. Their time at your company might be their first major exposure to the professional world. They probably don't understand office culture or certain nuances of workplace conduct. Don't forget to act like a mentor in addition to being a manager. This means coaching your interns in areas like networking, email etiquette, and more.
Peter Margulies is director of account management at WayUp.