Editor's note: The following is a contributed piece by Lori Almeida, chief talent officer at Siegel+Gale.
Many workplace skills don’t come from school, but from internships. Studies have shown a strong correlation between internship experience and job prospects, but great work experience doesn’t just happen. It takes nurturing and time from managers and peers. Here are five tips for creating a meaningful experience for your interns:
#1: Create a goal-oriented job description
Before your intern sets foot in the door, think through what, exactly, their job will entail, and what duties you’ll have them take on. Create a job description and develop a work plan that outlines responsibilities and goals for the duration of the internship.
On the first day, review the work plan you’ve developed for them, going over assignments and goals. Encourage them to give feedback and ask questions along the way.
#2: Set a schedule for training and instruction
During your intern’s first few days, carve out a few chunks of time on your calendar to give proper training and instructions. Start with an overview of the organization and the department, a tour of the office, and an introduction to your colleagues.
Take one of your meetings out of the office and schedule lunch or coffee during their first week. It’s a way to learn about them, their personal interests and their career goals.
#3: Make time to check in daily
Although it may seem time-consuming, check in with your intern every day. Schedule a more formal sit-down meeting once a week to keep them informed about upcoming projects and make sure they have clear direction on existing ones. It’s important to help your intern feel like part of the team and stay on track. If you’re not in a managerial position yet, you’ll need to do this when you start supervising employees. It’s a good idea to get into the habit of managing your time wisely so that you can complete your own projects and still devote time to others.
#4: Assign substantive tasks
Interns are eager to learn and provide value to the organization. Think about some valuable projects they can take on. Try to assign them tasks that relate to their career goals or strengths.
Finding substantive tasks for your intern to take on provides you a great opportunity to learn how to delegate. Being a leader doesn’t mean doing everything yourself — it means empowering others and bringing out their talents.
#5: Strive to be a strong teacher
This may be your intern’s first foray into the working world, so tasks that seem self-explanatory to you might not be to them. Avoid confusion by assuming that everything needs to be explained, and then give clear instructions for your expectations, the process for completing the task, and the deadline. After you talk through a project, ask if they have questions, and let them know that they can always come to you.
Strive to be someone who your intern can learn from. Take the time to answer questions and teach the things you wish someone would have taught you at that stage of your life. And think about aspects of your workplace or job that you might take for granted that could be a learning experience for your intern. Providing both formal and informal growth opportunities is part of helping someone learn.
Creating a great experience for your interns is crucial for career building, both for yourself and the intern. By taking time to create a structured, teaching environment you can shape your future employees.