At iOpener, we were really lucky to work with a clever, conscientious and charming intern last year (paid in case you’re wondering). She was with us for several months and not only did she make a significant contribution to our business during that time, she was also a delight to have around.
All in all, from my point of view as a leader, it was the most successful internship I have ever been part of. So, after the fond farewell, I started to think about what made it so successful. I reflected on what she did so well that made such a difference and left that lasting impression.
So for anyone looking to get the most from an internship, here’s what I concluded:
• Encourage your intern to whole-heartedly embrace the opportunity on offer; particularly the learning. Our intern was not afraid to get stuck in, right from the word go.
• Support them (with training if required) to communicate well and with enough detail to help others understand. Our intern did a fantastic job of sharing what she was up to and what progress she was making. That gave me real confidence in both her ability and her output.
• Encourage your intern to speak up when they feel out of their depth. At one point, our intern stood in my office having just taken a call and not knowing what to do next. As I started to share my thoughts, she looked uneasy and said ‘I’m feeling a bit out of my depth here’. That made me realise that, in this situation, she needed hands-on support. I was able to give support because she’d spoken up. She wasn’t afraid to say when she didn’t know what to do.
• Help your intern to make themselves part of your team by finding easy ways to contribute. For example, our intern suggested and helped organise a punting trip for the team in Oxford. She also offered to help others when she could see that they had more immediate pressures than she did.
• Urge them to be proactive and learn on the job. We asked our intern to update aspects of our website. She taught herself how to do it using a variety of online resources. She was adaptable and confident enough to support herself on her learning journey. That made her a real asset to our team.
• Inspire your intern to contribute positive energy to the team by being cheerful. We all know the impact our mood can have on others. Our intern was always positive. Her energy spread to others, who then reciprocated with the energy to support her and expose her to more aspects of our business.
I encourage you to open your business to an intern. Think about how you can support them to do the above and you’ll get amazing value in return.