As I was doing my morning reading today I came across this article from Tim 1. He actually literally says this (although to be fair to him that’s just his way). Sackett. In it, he basically says interns suck. 1
Tim Sackett has a general tendency to be right about HR related things, but I have to disagree with him in this case.
2. I’m sorry, I’ve thought about it some more and I just do.I think interns are delightful. I love their parents 2, their unrealistic expectations, and how little they know about working in corporate America.
Most of all I love the moment in the summer when an intern begins to get it.
Here is the thing about interns: They (typically) start off not knowing anything about anything. With that said, if you give them real work, a support system, lots of praise (when they do things right) and constructive feedback (when they do things wrong), by the end of the summer you’ll have a productive – albeit extremely green – employee. This employee can then come work for you when they graduate at an entry level salary – which is of course fantastic for all parties involved. The employer gets a cheap (and productive) employee, while the employee (despite limited work experience) gets a job.
See, with interns (at least the ones with potential – which is most of them) you get out what you put in. If you have them file paperwork and enter data then they won’t learn anything… and depending on where they are between freshman and senior year of college they may not care, either. With that said, my experience has been that most people – when pushed in the right ways – will perform.
During my university years I had lots of internships. Some of them were good and some of them were bad. In all cases, however, the level of support and quality of work I received from my manager dictated my performance (and how much I grew). Experienced professionals can perform with bad managers. Interns can’t (they don’t know enough about work to really be autonomous yet).
If your intern isn’t performing, isn’t engaged, or seems more pre-occupied with “insert whatever here” than the job you’re giving him or her then start by asking yourself the questions “Is this meaningful work?” and “Am I giving my intern the support needed to do it?” If the answer is “yes” on both counts then you may have someone on your hands who isn’t ready for the real world yet. If the answer is “no” on either count then I am sorry to tell you that you’re doing it wrong.
If you have any questions about how to develop an intern (or new hire) then let me know in the comments section below.
If you have questions about something you’ve read here (or simply want to connect) you can reach me at any of the following addresses:
SomethingDifferentHR@gmail.com OR firstname.lastname@example.org