by Crenshaw Communications intern Hilary Dillon
Internships are a “win-win” for students interested in a career in PR and for employers with busy workplaces in need of high-energy staff. At some point during an internship, the student will know whether the industry is right for them. Much has been written about how to succeed from the intern perspective; my tips, therefore, are for employers who want to maximize the experience for the intern.
Set expectations. It’s important for an intern to understand exactly what their role is, and to revisit the goals as necessary. Set up weekly meetings to discuss goals and answer questions. Even the most intrepid intern can be intimidated, so encouraging discussion is key.
Set the bar high, but be reasonably so. The goal of a motivated intern is to reach his or her full potential during this employment. Employers should push and give them more responsibility as warranted; the job is aspirational, after all! But it’s best to be practical with the amount of work assigned and to phase it in gradually. It’s easy to become overwhelmed, especially in a new position, when a younger employee is learning to balance and prioritize.
Value intern input. Interns sometimes have trouble “finding their voice” within the company, as they are the lowest on the totem pole. But encourage them to speak up and take initiative. If they present a problem, encourage them to think of solutions. In brainstorms, solicit their input, and listen! Sometimes fresh input is valuable.
Make mistakes “teachable moments.” Mistakes are bound to happen. The best way to deal with a young intern’s error is to turn it into a learning opportunity. In the first few weeks of my internship, I had to deal with an outside source involving the shipping of a broken banner for an event. Without realizing it, I sent a very harsh email to a vendor. My supervisor presented me with the note and asked me to spot the mistake, then draft another note. The vendor didn’t even notice, but now I am careful to use a professional tone with clients and vendors.
Give them the keys to succeed. In this case, literally! Give interns access to some social media projects. The millennial generation is known for its tech savvy and social awareness, so why not tap into it? Another way to help them succeed is to give them a mentor. Have them work directly with one person. A mentor can help alleviate the frustrations that interns often feel in the first few weeks of their new position. In the PR world, a good mentor also reiterates the value of networking and building relationships.
Any other words of wisdom you’d like to share with employers?