October 10, 2013

A First-Time Manager’s Perspective on Interns

This past summer, for the first time, I was assigned an intern of my own to manage and mentor. This experience of being on the other side of the internship role has given me a new perspective that I think could be handy for anyone currently in or pursuing an internship.
As an intern, your goal may expand your working knowledge, beef up your resume, make connections, make some money, or get your foot into the door at a particular company. These are all great goals but what about the company? Why are they hiring interns? The company’s interest in the internship is likely for one or more of these reasons:

1. Cheap labor

Most internships pay very little if anything at all. Starting on the bottom rungs of the career ladder mean professional experience and networking opportunities are your most valuable rewards so get as much of it as you can! Talk to the employees and soak up their expertise like a sponge while also getting to know them on a personal level. Show that you really care about the job and the other people working there.

2. Alleviating other employees of the more menial tasks

Especially in the beginning before your manager has had a chance to assess what you can do, you’re going to be assigned a lot of grunt work. Take these tasks and complete them as efficiently and error-free as possible. By surpassing your manager’s expectations, you’re more likely to be assigned more interesting and challenging tasks next time. Also, if you feel like your skills are being underutilized, say something to your manager. Sometimes a manager may have difficulty coming up with ideas for things to keep you busy so if you have some thoughts, suggest how you can help!

3. Molding future full-time employees

When it comes to filling full-time positions, people who’ve already worked at the hiring company have a definite advantage over those who haven’t. Really take the time to understand the company goals and think about how you can help the company to better achieve these goals. Being able to articulate this will give you a great interview pitch when trying to land a full-time position there.

4. New ideas from a fresh, youthful perspective

As an intern, I was fully aware of these first three objectives for intern-seeking companies. The one that surprised me was that sometimes companies hire interns because they offer a perspective that no one else currently within the company can offer. You represent a youthful generation, and because you haven’t learned all the industry standard rules, you’re ideas aren’t restricted by them. So don’t be afraid to offer your ideas and opinion because you’re “just the intern”. Speak up and maybe your idea will turn out to be the one that’s implemented!
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