Great Internships? An Intern’s View

Whether an internship lasts six weeks in the summer or an entire semester, spending time in corporate America as a college student can be incredibly valuable. Not only is it a learning experience for the student, but a good intern also creates value for the host company. The relationship between manager and intern is key to making the experience worthwhile for both parties. To make an internship productive and enjoyable for everyone involved, here are a few key points to for interns and supervisors to keep in mind.

Interns . . .

  1. Don’t do what you’re told.
    1. Do more!
    2. Step outside of your comfort zone.
    3. If you have free time, take up a project on your own that interests you.
  2. Take notice.
    1. Keep a journal and update it regularly.
    2. Stay engaged in conversations and take notes in meetings.
    3. Reflect on lessons learned and how they might apply in the future.
  3. Network.
    1. Collect business cards. Write the date and the occasion on the back.
    2. Write a few sentences about each person in your journal.
    3. Attend as many networking events as possible. Make an impression!

Managers . . .

  1. Give feedback.
    1. Deliver specific feedback to motivate and to model best-practice management.
    2. Explain why the intern’s job is important.
    3. Set tangible goals together.
  2. Share stories.
    1. Offer “war stories” of difficult or exciting times in your career.
    2. Your experiences help an intern learn business in a different way.
    3. Real examples of failures and successes help an intern understand the reality of working.
  3. Assign meaningful work.
    1. Busy work creates no value for anyone. Few interns will speak up, so do your best to minimize it.
    2. Show confidence that the intern can do an assigned task. Don’t micromanage.
    3. Reward exceptional performance.

A great internship leverages the combination of an intern’s desire to work hard and a supervisor’s need for another pair of hands. If done well, the experience will be a valuable learning experience for intern and supervisor.

Northwestern University senior Adam DePietro just completed a summer internship here at Productive Strategies. A learning and organizational change major, Adam is also a 6-foot-5-inch, 280-pound offensive lineman for the Big Ten Wildcats football team. We made sure he had a great internship at our firm, right Adam?

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