Managing interns can be difficult, especially if it’s your first time. How are you supposed to handle college students who’ve been in classroom walls for 4 years and have 0 experience when it comes to actually working? The anxiety is there that you might end up overwhelming them with too much work and not enough explaining, or bore them with too little work and too much explaining.
Never fear though, as with most things, being an intern management is a skill that can be learned and improved on. Here are 5 steps to help you get started.
Orient the interns
Source: ESN Oulu
Yes, while most companies host a formal orientation for all interns, they don’t exactly teach them what their job actually is and how to handle it. So after explaining to them the department they’ll be working at and what purpose it serves, get to the specifics. What jobs will they possibly be assign to do? How should they do them? Should they use proper grammar in all forms of communication? When can they come to you and ask for help? Should all emails they send be double checked by someone first? The more specific you get, the less likely they’ll mess up.
Know their learning style
Remember, not everyone learns how to do things differently. Some can easily do a task they’ve been assigned needing only a basic explanation. Others will ask a ton of questions before they get it right. Some need to see the task being performed by someone else first before they get the hang of it. Others learn on the go. Communication is key, and you need to ask (and observe) how they learn so both of you can easily adjust to the job on hand.
Prepare a to-do list for them
Now, even if you know the learning style of your intern, you can never have too much instructions and guides. So regardless of whether they’re an auditory or visual learner, make a list of things they need to do. It should contain the list of projects they need to accomplish, its due date, its level of priority, who should the project be sent or given to, and specific instructions if necessary.
Lead by example
Please, never follow the “do as I say and not as I do” mindset. It never works, and the consequences are much greater in engineering field work. Things as simple as coming in on time and wearing the proper attire to being a supportive boss and working well with your coworkers all matters to the mind of the intern. That way, he will know that he should take this job much more seriously. Also, don’t be afraid to give praise to your intern for doing a good job. Positive reinforcement does wonders to anyone’s job performance.
Talk to them
Finally, when you’re stuck in a situation you’re not quite sure you can handle, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Even if we do everything perfectly, there are some things that are just out of our hands, like maybe an intern’s attitude or incompetence. Talk to your intern. Maybe they’re acting this way because they don’t find the job interesting enough. Maybe your intern is trying their hardest but just can’t catch up. Remember, interns have little to no experience, so they still don’t know how to communicate properly with their supervisor.
When that doesn’t work out, ask someone else for help. Ideally, that would be your boss, since they can provide the most insight and the best solution based on experience.