4 Ways to Create a Win-Win Scenario Internship

Posted May 9, 2013 by Adrienne Asselmeier in On the Ladder

I’m in the middle! That’s when I was an intern, with two people who taught me everything.

Today, I was prepping for a first day with a new intern. She is eager to get work experience to supplement her degree, and is feeling the pressure of a weak job market post-graduation. I was in the exact same situation a few years ago (it was awful), so I want to pass on all of the knowledge that I can. An organized first day would set the tone for the rest of the semester, so I searched “internship first day agenda” thinking I’d save some time by looking at someone else’s example. I didn’t find one, but I did find “6 Ways to Be a Great Boss to Your Intern” from Forbes and it got me thinking about how I’m going to be a more effective boss for this internship.

With any good internship, there are a few things that you should focus on as the supervisor to make sure that you’re creating a win-win scenario.

Vernacular. I realized today while teaching Amy about marketing that there are a ton of acronyms. In about ten minutes we covered wysiwyg editors, content management systems (CMSs), and comma separated value (CSV). I try really hard not to speak in lingo because it is annoying, but sometimes it’s the clearest way to communicate. People who went to college for a liberal arts degree (like me and Amy) and not for a profession often don’t have that information. Though we can totally deliver on skills, we have to be taught the vernacular that refers to common tools and ideas in order to do well in our field.

Setting goals. I recently wrote a post about setting goals because the process of setting goals leads you to become better at something. An internship is no different, and you should help your intern set their own goals. If your intern doesn’t have any goals, it’s okay to set some for them, but they’re adults and should think hard about why they want to do this and what they want to learn. Give them a day to think about it if they walk in as a blank slate, but encourage all Career Girls to challenge themselves to reach higher than mediocrity.

Time management. I’ve known several people who went to their internships and sat around because no one would teach them what to do and delegate regular tasks. If you honestly can’t come up with enough work and won’t take the time to teach them, don’t bother getting an intern. It would be a waste of time. Otherwise, keep a time log for a few days and see what you do. At the end of the week, go back through and analyze. What could you teach someone else to do with a little instruction? Don’t just get an intern to sweep. Find ways to teach them something useful, take it off your plate, and then use the time you gain to do some long-term planning, or get ahead on another area. Or advertise for an intern to do a special project. They’ll learn something and enjoy the experience, and you’ll be a better manager with a little extra time on your hands.

Realism. I’m in non-profit. I have emptied garbage cans, delivered a car full of drums, met famous people, driven a terrifyingly large van full of students, and filed for hours on end. You never know what’s going to come up, and you have to be able to do what needs to be done regardless of who should be doing it, and not quit every time you have to tackle something way outside of your job description. A big part of being a good intern boss is delegating rewarding work that will help your intern grow, but don’t forget to teach them that this is the real world, and sometimes you have to get your hands dirty without throwing a fit.

Every successful woman learned from someone how to be great at what they do. It’s our job as Career Girls who care about our fields and our communities to share what we know and what we’ve learned. Some tutoring on common software, helpful shortcuts and tips, time management techniques, and basic administrative skills go a very long way for new graduates, so reach out to local universities or put the word out on your website to let people know you’re willing to teach an intern. If you plan a little, delegate, and use the extra time to get work done while having a fresh face and new perspective by your side, you’ll both walk away feeling like you benefited from the internship.

About the Author

Adrienne Asselmeier

Adrienne "Dren" Asselmeier is a writer and marketing specialist. Dren has a Bachelor of Arts in English Language and Literature and is a blogger, runner, over-achiever, and friend to everyone. She likes to write about science-based health and fitness, small business ownership, and motivational topics.