So you’ve just hired an impact intern – that’s great news for both your organisation and the intern! But now you’re thinking, when am I going to have the time to mentor them or how do I lead them? Don’t worry, these are common worries for any supervisor and the best solution is knowing how to manage and support your interns effectively. Not to worry, Milaana is here to help every step of the way! Don’t forget that when you sign on as an organisation through Milaana, we provide you with a number of handy documents that can help you to improve your supervisor and mentor role. But if you’re looking for some quick answers now or would like a sneak peak, then keep reading!
Having an intern is a win-win situation for both parties – the intern benefits from gaining real-world work experience and developing skills and networks in their study area, while organisations benefit from access to new insights and skills, as well as enhancing an organisation’s social image by creating valuable learning opportunities for youth. There should be a mutually beneficial relationship created that facilitates an equitable exchange (ie. your interns aren’t there just to get you coffee!). It is important to realise that your intern is not in any way a free labour replacement but rather a unique, brilliant and big-hearted human looking to contribute their skills, insights and perspectives to your organisations.
So if you follow these four easy steps below, then there’ll be smiles all around!
Step 1 – Get to know your intern
Before you start setting your intern tasks, you first need to get to know your intern. What do they like doing, what are their strengths, what skills do they have that the organisation doesn’t? Where do they see themselves in 10 years and what is it that really drives them at their core?! Like any relationship, this will help build trust and confidence in each other, and will set the foundation for a strong relationship and clear communication going forward. Be aware of cross-cultural settings – get to know your intern’s culture as this will allow you to gain a better understanding of the person’s identity and their behaviour. Introduce them to other members of your organisation and encourage your colleagues to make the first move with interns as this will make them feel comfortable. Get everyone to go out for lunch to share stories of themselves and what they do. This way your intern has a great understanding of who’s who in the zoo and the support network that is available. If there is a supportive atmosphere where everyone can have a good time whilst still working effectively, this will create better relationships and make the intern feel accepted.
Step 2 – Set out workable objectives
This step is very important – setting clear and achievable objectives which you both agree on. What is it that you want the project to achieve in terms of specific objectives and KPI’s? Why did they apply for the internship and what do they want to gain from it? Once you know that, you will be able to use our detailed project scoping form to set tasks that utilise the intern’s best skills. This way the intern will know what to expect and how their personal objectives align with that of the projects so they are even more motivated to help achieve those objectives. This will ultimately result in maximum productivity and benefits for the project and therefore, greater learning and in-depth experience for the student.
You will also need to determine whether the objectives are feasible and whether they truly facilitate a valuable learning experience for the student. Our project outline template takes you through these steps and ideally you should sit down and go through this with the student to ensure you are both on that same part. In terms of timing the deliverables, it is preferable that they fit into the students schedule as well as your own. It is important to consider how much time you can provide to manage your intern and factor that into the strategies and plans you both agree on to reach those objectives. Remember to also be clear about the length of the internship, and it is worth getting them to read your organisation’s rules and regulations so they are clear about what is the most appropriate behaviour – all goodies included in the on-boarding guide!
The interns should take away practical work experience that is related to their study area, build their knowledge and networks, gain a better understanding of the cause your organisation is focused on addressing and feel satisfied that they can contributed to this cause. The tasks assigned should allow them to acquire a variety of skills and appreciate the dynamic and complex nature of real world working environments! You may like to get them to work on a special project with you or help in an area where the organisation is lacking in skills.
Step 3 – Provide guidance
You can’t expect your intern to know it all or to be able to complete tasks completely independently as they are still learning, thats the point! Assign someone in your organisation as a mentor that the intern can approach when they need help, whether that be you or someone else with enough time and ability to manage an intern. Also make sure they know that one of the most amazing mentors we have today – GOOGLE – is able to help them 24/7! Approximately 20% to 30% of a mentor’s time should be spent teaching the intern. This is not wasted time – it is an opportunity to gain new perspectives about your work by having a new set of eyes and ideas. This time also empowers the intern to undertake tasks beyond your capacity (and possible capability!) so think of it as an ‘investment’ of your time for both yourself and the intern. The nature of our projects also means that they are working on tasks that the supervisor/mentor is also working on so it is aligned with their activities. This person can be responsible for monitoring your intern’s progress and communicating with them frequently to ensure they know what they are doing. Your intern may be shy or scared and will feel more comfortable if you guide and encourage them to communicate with you openly.
If you find your intern is lacking the ability to complete tasks or they aren’t coping, then it’s better to take action early on. This could be looking at the objectives you both set earlier to see what is hindering them from achieving those objectives, and then restructure them in order to allow them to reach those goals. Alternatively, it may be better to change the objectives to ones they can meet (and that align with their hidden talents!). Your intern may have been unaware that they weren’t performing well or they may have been too intimidated to ask questions. If the interns are talking too much or behaving unprofessionally, then talk with them privately so they don’t get embarrassed. Start with a positive comment first, and reinforce the idea that you are there to support them. Our mid-review form is created to help you with this at a mid point of the journey.
Above all, remember they are still learning! They may not have developed the ability to work fast or to reach tight deadlines, so you will need to be accommodating but also motivating. Be mindful that the intern will have many other commitments going on such as studying and working, so be realistic about what you want your intern to achieve during their time with you. It may be a better strategy to allow the intern to work remotely at times if they can’t come into the office frequently. From what we have found though, set a good structure and support framework (we can help you with this!) and the interns will blow you away!!!
Step 4 – Keep creating an enjoyable atmosphere and remember to thank your interns!
Impact Placements are very beneficial for your interns and your organisation. If you realise that your intern is an amazing human with great potential simply looking for an outlet and project to channel and develop their talents, all parties will achieve their objectives and build lasting connections. After all, they are a part of an important project!
Provide feedback that is constructive – make sure you point out both the positives and areas where they can improve, but don’t just shut them down with criticism as this will make them lose confidence and they won’t feel comfortable communicating with you. Show interest in what they are doing, and you might find yourself learning a few new things from them eg. what even is a hashtag?
It is important to know the laws surrounding interns and unpaid experience – check the Fair Work Act Outlines here.
As a general rule, the training interns receive from your organisation must be a similar (ideally better!) quality to what would be given in an education setting (such as university) and the interns cannot be replacing workers who are usually paid. Thats illegal yo! If their time is unpaid they MUST be gaining an amazing and tangible learning experience. You do not need to hire your intern (though many organisations do once they find these talented humans!) but if they worked well then write them a great letter of recommendation, introduce them to your networks to help them in their career and we are sure you’ll enjoy following their journeys that likely started with their experience with you.
Again, once you accept an intern through your Milaana project – you’ll have access to all our lovely support materials and we are here to help!
So now that you know how to manage your interns effectively, it’s time to put it into practice. As long as you are prepared and willing to take the time to manage your intern effectively, then you’ll both walk away in a better position than you were in before.