10 Best Practices for Managing Your Intern

By Ahva Sadeghi

Ahva Sadeghi

Ahva Sadeghi

Chief Executive Officer

Managing interns is easy… said no one ever! Each year during intern season, managers scramble to prepare the best internship experiences. We have identified 10 tips that will help you design an amazing internship experience for you and your intern. These best practices will help you build an internship program you can be proud of.

Here are ten tips for intern supervisors on how to best manage their interns:

1. Plan ahead and prepare. Before your interns start, make sure you have a plan in place. Who will your interns be interacting with on a day-to-day basis? What kinds of projects will they be working on? You do not want to be scrambling to come up with projects for your intern after the program has already started. Otherwise, it will be very challenging to find time to create meaningful projects and tasks for your intern to do. For more advice and guidance on how to set up a great internship program, check out 12 Steps to Setting Up an Intern Program.

2. Make your intern feel welcomed. The first day of an internship can be overwhelming. Maybe it’s their first job ever, or it’s their third internship and they’re nervous because they’re joining a new company. Make your intern feel like they’re a part of the team from day one. Hank Ostholthoff, CEO of Mabbly, says, “From day one, senior leadership needs to make young talent feel welcome, by being accessible, dedicating specific time and making it clear that they are an important part of your organization.” Invite them out to lunch and make sure to introduce them to everyone around the office. One great idea that we have seen is giving a nice welcome letter to your intern.

3. Be a resource. Part of making your intern feel welcomed is making yourself available when they have questions. Your intern does not know everything, and you are their guide to success. Remember, an internship is often times a practice shot at a real career. Your intern will most likely have numerous questions for you. HR Development Consultant Melinda McCorkle Brunell shares that “interns often hesitate to ask questions, believing they should already know the answers or can figure them out. Let them know that you welcome questions because they can save time in the long run.”

4. Be willing to train and teach. Along with being a resource, you must also be ready to have training and teaching sessions for your intern. An internship is a learning program in an applied career field. Your intern should learn many new things during their time with you. For more information on how to best train your interns, check out Huffington Post’s 6 Ways to Train Interns Quickly and Efficiently.

5. Set goals. It is important to set clear expectations and goals from the beginning. This will not only provide a roadmap for your intern but also help you organize yourself. Eleanor Rose, an intern and author at Washington Intern Student Housing (WISH) shares, “Goals have to be clear, intentional and aspirational to have a chance at succeeding. Interns have a lot to get done in a short time, so it’s a must to get there fast.” Goals are also important for measuring the success of your internship program. For more help on how to set great goals for your intern, check out Eleanor’s post, 7 Goal Setting Tips for Interns.

6. Have regular check-ins. Check-ins are essential for your intern to stay engaged during the course of the internship. It provides an opportunity for two-way communication and dialogue, and enables the intern to express any concerns. It also ensures you have some time in your schedule to interact with your intern beyond just handing them assignments.

7. Give quality feedback. During the check-ins mentioned above, take some time to give feedback to your intern. Feedback is instrumental to successful internship experiences. Regular and quality feedback is especially important for interns, who usually don’t stay long enough for annual reviews. This will help them improve their work and allow them to contribute and learn more effectively.

8. Be a mentor. Internship programs are opportunities for you to serve as a mentor and mold an intern’s future career path. Mentorship is incredibly valuable for interns. It gives them the opportunity to be open with and learn from someone more experienced. “Making sure your interns have a great experience is crucial for their careers. But remember that it’s important for yours, too! Working with interns provides you with the opportunity to develop resume-building management skills and to learn more about the manager you would like to become,” says Betsy Aimee, a women’s health advocate and blogger.

9. Inspire them. This is a great opportunity for you to get the next generation of the workforce excited about your career. You have the platform to motivate them and leave a lasting impact in your field. Show them how the projects they are contributing to affect the department or business as a whole. Discuss the future career paths ahead of them and how internships like yours will help them achieve their goals.

10. Have fun! Lastly, an internship should be a fun learning experience. We encourage intern managers to host social events and outings for their interns. When interns are happy at work, overall performance truly improves.