It’s that time of year again when students are scrambling to find placements at agencies to fulfill their internship hours for course credit. Often companies hastily bring students on board to fulfill a quota or make them feel good about helping the school, only to have them do mundane tasks such as make photocopies, reorganize file cabinets or update someone’s contact list. This is a missed opportunity for the agency in both helping students achieve their career ambitions as well as having them provide you with much needed in-house assistance.
As we’re asked to do more with less these days and meet challenging deadlines, having a student in house is a great way to help with productivity.
But how would you, as an agency person, get to this stage with your intern?
Before taking on any student, meet with them in advance to find out what their strengths and weaknesses are and what their ultimate career goal is. There’s no use bringing on a student to do their 8-week internship in graphic design, when they’d rather dive into media relations instead. Specializing your intern so your tasks align with their field of interest will help make them work harder and happier.
As well, it’s pointless to bring on board a student if you plan to ship them between departments week after week. Though they might get a taste of different responsibilities, it doesn’t help you in the end when you require consistency on a project. Nor does it do any favours to the student looking to excel and gain real life knowledge in a specific field during their internship.
Once you feel you have a perfect fit for your student, explain to them your project expectations in detail, so they can fit into a comfortable groove and you can worry about more pressing matters. Having your intern run with the ball will allow you to concentrate on the bigger picture. Though it goes without saying you’ll always be there to pull them back in, should they stray off the field with the ball.
Introduce your intern to everyone in the agency and take them on a tour so they can hit the ground running on day one. There’s nothing worse than someone asking an already intimated student on their first day “Who are you?” As well, having your student interact with staff builds their real-world work confidence so if they need any help from an agency staffer, they can approach on their own without having them bother you over the littlest things (Where can I can find some staples? Where is the IT person because I’m having trouble with the wi-fi?).
Finally, an intern shouldn’t be treated as slave labour nor be given tasks you wouldn’t do yourself (change the coffee maker, clean the microwave, separate paper into recyclables and non-recyclables). This is your chance to shape someone’s future while at the same time, provide much needed real-life agency work experience they can relish. Fulfilling internship hours shouldn’t be a chore for the student, or for you.
Are you a student looking to gain real agency experience?
Feature image via The Good Jobs