5 Mistakes to Avoid with Your Intern Program

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Peak intern season is wrapping up, so it’s a perfect time to take what you’ve learned and make changes for the next go-round. As you adjust your programming for the next wave of interns, keep these five common mistakes in mind… and avoid them!

1. Throwing interns into their work right away

A new situation of any type can be intimidating, and on top of that, problems arise when people are afraid to ask for help. Proactively walk interns through the ins and outs of the role and company with a formal onboarding. The process should include assigning interns with a workspace, introductions to the team, and training. Effective onboarding should really start before the intern’s first day. By the time they arrive, their email address should be set up, they should have already received any important documentation, and they should be aware of all those basic details, such as what to wear, when to arrive, and where to go. 

2. Skimping on compensation

Quality internship programs provide meaningful work for their interns and view interns as assets. In turn, interns should receive fair compensation. Depending on your organization and the specifics of the internship, compensation can be monetary or come in the form of class credit. In addition to official compensation, provide plenty of formal enrichment opportunities, such as networking, regular seminars, or even travel. 

3. Putting interns in charge of social media

The fit seems natural: match a young, technologically savvy person with Facebook, Twitter, and all the other social platforms that no one else wants to bother with.

This seemingly-ideal plan can backfire. Interns don’t know enough about your company culture, voice, and tone. They’re more likely to make rookie mistakes, such as crossing boundaries of taste and firing off inappropriate responses. Furthermore, being responsible for social media is about much more than being fluent in it. You need to understand metrics, such as how to measure engagement and conversion rates, so it isn’t something that can be easily tasked as a temporary project.

4. Letting the intern fly solo

Interns need mentors–not someone to hold their hand, but someone who can show them the ropes, help train them, and be there for support. Or even someone to serve as a go-to and sounding board for those outrageous ideas. One of the most valuable things a mentor can do is connect them with resources and provide guidance in developing skills. 

5. Selecting mentors without much thought

Your job isn’t done once you match an intern with a mentor, as you should set expectations for your mentor as well. Will the mentor and intern work on a project together? If so, which one? How will the mentor develop the intern’s professional skills? It helps to create a form for you, the intern, and the mentor to fill out at the beginning of the relationship so that everyone understands the parameters. If you’re interested in setting up a mentorship program (for interns, or anyone really), you can download our Guide to Employee Mentorship Programs

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