3 Keys to Managing an Intern in a Small Business

3 Keys to Managing an Intern in a Small Business

The new year is in full swing as I celebrate the start of my 3rd year in business. I am looking forward to what this year will bring. How about you? Have you finalized your business plan? This year, one of the areas I’m turning my attention to is an intern.

In other blogs you’ll find tactical steps to take when hiring an intern. In this blog, I address three keys to managing an intern in a small business. These are: planning ahead, organizing interesting projects, and giving that much-desired and frequent coaching.

Today’s interns have different expectations than in the past. They require real life work experiences that ease the transition to a meaningful career. Gone are the days of treating the intern as your personal assistant. Knowing this helps the small business owner thoughtfully plan the internship. Ask intern candidates about their professional and career goals. What do they hope to gain by working with your firm? It is important for your mutual success that the intern has input to the work experiences.

Consider a smaller project initially. Perhaps there are projects in which you excel yet are developmental for someone else. Or, a team project which can be separated into manageable chunks. Be sure you have consensus with the intern before you begin. If you have limited experience delegating, consider ‘Don’t Do. Delegate!’ by James M. Jenks. A former manager recommended this book to me and it has proven to be a good reference.

As you organize the intern’s projects start small so they hit the ground running and build those early wins. The next phase should be a little more difficult with less direction from you. When the intern is able to take on more responsibility, allow them some freedom so they continue building their tool box of marketable skills.

Finally, stay in close contact and provide regular coaching. Share what is working well and why. Mention one area for development. Ask the intern’s feedback. What do they see is working? Where they would like more direction or experience?

When I supervised my first intern, my manager said to make it a positive experience – that was the best advice of all!

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