The VPM Blog

Creating Fireworks with Interns

Posted by Don Crow on Jul 1, 2013 5:55:34 AM

As America prepares for another birthday bash and a near weeklong fireworks display, Interns around the country are celebrating or stressing over the halfway mark of their summer.

They have a job offer close at hand, have made no progress and are pitching Mom & Dad for reentry, or they’re ahead of the curve and a rising senior. Or, they are just waiting for one last long weekend and then by golly, they’ll get down to the business of blasting resumes like cannons over Charleston Harbor.

So students, what should you really expect out of the no doubt numerous internship offers you have?

Go large and you may find yourself engaging in day long rounds of Snap Chat with fellow interns because you’re not trusted to do more than research for projects, note taking on conference calls or yes, fetching coffee from the cafeteria. Then again, even a modest amount of networking in a large company can yield a serious job offer.

Slide into the mid-size company and appropriately placed, you’ll likely be an executive’s shadow and straddle the line between admin and program manager. This is the land of hurry-up-and-wait where you get real responsibility in-between waiting on your boss to finish a meeting. And all of this is for a well written form letter of recommendation and possibly a job installing the lowest rung on the ladder you will eventually be encouraged to climb. The good news is you’ll have an ally near the top who has a 65% better chance of opening your email than the execs to their left and right.

Small? It’s a crap shoot out there. Choose wisely young knight, or you could find yourself in a virtual role working for a sole proprietor (or his or her garage/home office), the only person within 50 miles with your degree experience (example: a PR intern tasked with Social Media for a web design shop desperately trying to make themselves over into a marketing agency), or the holy grail of small company internships: client facing, real responsibility and not as much pool time as you thought.

Extreme cases? Sure.

Made up? Nope.

I’ve had interns work for me at the top and bottom of this pyramid and I have it on superb authority from previous interns who’ve relayed horror stories that make the above scenarios look quite tame.

Lest you hiring managers and those who want an intern think you’re off the hook, here is my approach for creating fireworks for interns:

  • At any size, give every candidate a realistic interview based on your organization’s real hiring practices. Make it sizzle afterwards with honest feedback.
  • Create, conduct post training surveys and refine your on-boarding process. If you don’t know what an on-boarding process is, do your interns a favor and show them a picture of a roaring fire. Then explain to them the picture represents the trials they will face at your company.
  • Give your intern an assignment to teach you or your larger team something. Ask them probing questions about their favorite classes and why and let them choose a topic they are comfortable with. Do not let the team bludgeon them with criticism afterwards. In fact, it’s okay to just have everyone applaud, thank the intern and move on. Give them feedback separately afterwards.
  • Paid or unpaid, take them to lunch, dinner and a networking or happy hour event (not all in the same day!). Demonstrate what proper professional behavior is at each of those.
  • Take your intern to a client meeting. Introduce them by saying something about them other than where they go to school, what they are studying and when they graduate.
  • Have your interns over to your house at the mid or end point of their semester. Demonstrate the difference between “work” and “play” boss so they’ll know you are a human being after all.
  • At the end of the semester go above and beyond the University required check list and give them fair and honest feedback they can use. And for goodness sakes, don’t treat this like your annual employee reviews that you bitch and groan about.

This is a short list, and certainly not all inclusive. The bottom line is, interns can be powerful brand ambassadors both during their time with you and after. You should treat them as such and demonstrate a work environment that will give them decision making tools and skills they can’t get in a classroom or waiting tables.

Or, at least that’s always been my plan here at Verge Pipe Media. Now, please excuse me while I go put the finishing touches on our mid-term “Carolina Cookout” at my house.

P.S. And for you students looking for, currently in or about to exit an internship….this is your sandbox. Make the most of the time you have, learn all you can and meet as many folks as possible, even if it means putting Snap Chat aside.

Author: is Founder & CEO at Verge Pipe Media. Verge Pipe Media is a strategic digital marketing and Public Relations firm assisting clients in Higher Ed, consumer goods, startup tech companies and more.

Don on Google+

photo credit: Mr Magoo ICU via photopin cc

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