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How To Make The Most Of Having An Intern

By News Creatives Authors , in Small Business , at July 23, 2021

Founder and CEO of JSA Strategies, a strategic communications firm working with consumer tech, digital media and gaming companies.

In the nearly 12 years since I founded my PR firm, JSA Strategies, I’ve learned not to underestimate the power of a good intern. The trope of the useless, coffee-getting college student completing pointless tasks and busy work all summer has never existed in my office — and it never will. In fact, my experience has been quite the opposite.

There is a wealth of motivated, capable students and post-grads out there who cannot only make your office run more smoothly but also enrich your business in unexpected ways. The interns I’ve worked with in the past have walked away with gratitude for their newfound knowledge, and I’ve kept in touch with many of them along their career journeys.

In order to cultivate a positive experience for you and your intern, it’s important to be proactive from start to finish. Here are a few ways my team creates a quality internship:

Choosing The Right Fit

Success stems from hiring the best people. It may seem obvious, but it goes much deeper than a well-formatted resume and tailored cover letter. A resume can tell me if someone is studious and passionate about their interests, but what it can’t tell me is the enthusiasm a potential candidate has for our clients and the work we do for them. A standout candidate comes to an interview equipped with knowledge of our industry and specific questions about our work.

Equally important is making sure a potential new intern is a culture fit. I value a collaborative and supportive office environment, so if someone prefers a workspace that’s more individualized — or doesn’t appreciate occasional funny banter — it probably won’t be an enjoyable experience for anyone. Finding somebody who gets along with everyone makes welcoming an intern a much smoother process.

Adjusting To Being Remote

Before the pandemic started, I never would have thought having a virtual intern was a viable option. I have always primarily hired USC students — not only because it’s my alma mater but because I’m very familiar with their communications program and know they produce quality candidates who are geographically desirable.

But then remote work became the new normal, and I quickly realized that having interns work virtually is not only possible but also a great opportunity to expand our network of interns. While the talent pool is broader than ever before, it’s important to prioritize productivity and connectivity as if you were all together within the same four walls — even if they’re 1,000 miles away.

Presence is key. Even if an intern is joining the office from their bedroom across the country, make an effort to make them feel like they’re physically there. Part of what makes an internship such a valuable experience for students is that it enables them to see “how the sausage is made,” and working remotely can take that aspect away.

To ensure they’re not completely blind to what’s happening in the office, video conference them often so they can take part in high-level conversations and ask questions in real time. We do this by setting up an iPad in our communal workspace and having our virtual team members FaceTime throughout the day so it’s like they’re right there with us.

Having A Workflow

Proactively establish a productive system so every day can be used to the fullest. Communicate what your expectations are and explain how your intern can best fulfill them — you don’t want your intern to feel like a fish out of water.

At the beginning of each day, compile a list of intern tasks and be sure to give them a good mix of assignments so it doesn’t get too redundant. This should give interns a taste of the various aspects of their potential careers and enable them to develop their skills for the professional world. The last thing you want is for an intern to leave your office unprepared and unable to contribute to their next job.

Make sure to also designate a team member for interns to report to so they feel supported and comfortable as they learn. It can be intimidating for someone with little or no experience in an office environment to ask questions, but it makes it easier when they have at least one person they know they can confide in.

Giving Feedback

Take an interest in the work they are completing and offer constructive feedback that will be genuinely useful in their future endeavors. Meet with your interns frequently, provide updates on their progress and encourage them to ask for feedback on their own.

You can also give them tips outside of the actual tasks they are completing. Sometimes the most educational part of an internship is just being there and experiencing the process of an idea transitioning from concept to reality.

Trusting Your Intern

If you’ve done your job and picked the right person, then trust them to do theirs. An intern is there to learn, not just to get coffee.

Make sure to delegate and give your interns meaningful tasks. Doing so will ensure they get a feel for the industry basics — not to mention, it can make your office so much more productive. You might be hesitant to give them important work, but they’re much more capable than you think. My interns never fail to impress me with what they can do. 

That being said, make sure to be respectful of their time, as many interns are also full-time students. And don’t forget to thank them for their work and let them know they are appreciated.

In the end, it all depends on how you choose to use your interns. If you take the time to train them and integrate them into your team, it’s a win-win. You can leverage them as a great resource to manage overwhelming workloads, and they can gain valuable experience that will shape them into the next generation of young professionals.


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