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Win-win internships

two young business people looking at laptop on desk together

The summer months mark the perfect time to offer an internship at your business. While interns provide needed skills at an affordable price, you should also keep the well-being of your intern in mind…and plan for it. Be sure to think through how you can properly mentor and educate your intern. You never know when one of them might become a long-term and valuable employee.

To help you plan, follow this simple acronym—LEAF. It breaks down as follows:
L—Link the intern’s projects to business goals.
E—Ethically plan for and manage your intern.
A—Authentically mentor and coach your intern.
F—Use feedback as a teaching and
development tool. Now, let’s expand on each component of this strategy for internship success.

L— Link projects to business goals
Some business owners view interns as free labor to perform grunt work. This should not be your primary objective. Instead, plan for how you can best utilize your intern to accomplish meaningful goals that are beneficial for both of you. How can you do this easily? First, understand what candidates are looking for in an internship. Here is some insight:

  • A good fit between the intern, organization and projects assigned.

  • Challenging assignments that build transferable skills.

  • Well-organized programs, clear expectations and consistent feedback.

  • Exposure to senior leaders or people in multiple departments for networking

  • Accessibility to sound coaching and mentoring.

On the flipside, have a clear understanding of what your company needs from an intern. Write down the knowledge, skills and abilities required of interns to succeed in your business.

E— Ethically plan and manage your intern

Keep in mind that internships are still considered employment and they must align with labor laws. So, you may want to consult with a human resources professional who has expertise in internship programs or an attorney to make sure you understand Department of Labor employment regulations.

Beyond the legality of how you treat an intern, there are also business ethics to consider. For example, if you don’t have time to mentor and manage your intern properly, think seriously about whether you should be making this kind of commitment.

A— Authentically mentor and coach your intern

Setting expectations from the start will save time down the road. Set your mentoring relationship up for success by communicating clearly about:

  • What the beginning and the end of the internship will look like.

  • Expectations on frequency of communications and check-ins with the intern.

  • Guidance on reporting goals progress.

  • Expectations on attitude, particularly in terms of learning and feedback.

  • Assignment of new tasks or changes in assigned tasks

Also, make sure that communication is a two-way street and engage in active listening. This will help build rapport and trust, which is essential for providing and receiving constructive feedback.

F— Use feedback as a teaching and development tool
Frequent and specific feedback is critical when you’re coaching an intern. Schedule feedback sessions at appropriate intervals, and harness the power of impromptu, positive feedback when you feel that your intern is exceeding expectations. This will further build trust and open the door to honest feedback.

The LEAF concept is simple, but effective. Apply the concepts here to plan a successful internship program.

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