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Taking Your Interns to the Next (Entry) Level

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The availability, technological savvy, and enthusiasm of interns make them valuable assets. "Millennials" (born between 1980 and 1995) is the tag for the new generation just entering the workforce. Although they are characterized as hardworking and resourceful, organizations may not be getting enough out of this new crop of interns. "Businesses can slip into the mindset of viewing interns as inexpensive, perennial subordinates instead of potential hires," says HR Specialist Tom Willard. Willard points out that young people are often eager to advance their careers, but this doesn't necessarily mean they want to move on. "It's a two way street, because interns are evaluating companies while they are under the microscope themselves." When you think that an intern may be a good fit for your business, how do you groom them to ascend to entry level status? Here are ways to guide your interns toward future success in your company.

Train, Train, Train
It's no surprise that the most successful employees are those who consistently receive training that corresponds with their department's mission and goals. The great thing about interns is that they are usually students with a strong will to learn and grow. It's a perfect opportunity to teach them what is expected from employees and inform how your company culture works. "I've seen workers experience a renaissance themselves when they are asked to mentor interns and show them the ropes," says Willard. Instruction should be relevant to the position, in step with current practices, and allow ample room for feedback. It's important to recognize that because of the Internet and cell phones the younger generation is used to more interaction and the opportunity to provide feedback. When possible, giving individualized attention ensures that interns will master roles and recognize that you are serious about your investment in their success.

Make it Meaningful
An intern may start off by making copies and performing other mundane tasks, but there should be a progression in their responsibilities. By not increasing responsibilities, you squander the chance to send a message to an intern that their work will be meaningful and there is room for upward movement in your company. Millennials relish the challenge of mastering new tasks and proving themselves. These are some of the traits that characterize the generation:

  • They have very high self-esteem
  • They are technically savvy
  • They have high hopes of starting at the top and are less cynical than Generation Yers

Another quality of Millennials is that they don't shy away from hard work. "Without challenging a young person, you're not going to get a good idea of their potential and how they may fit in to your future plans," says Willard.

Give Them a Forum
One strategic gesture that recognizes what Millennials crave is to offer them a forum. Whether it's a blog or a message board, allowing interns to network with others in a public forum shows you are speaking to their needs. They can develop a rapport with others by sharing their experience as an intern in your company, and it documents their upward growth and progress. Of course, you don't want to go too far and have them reveal sensitive information or company secrets. Providing this outlet gives interns a sense of freedom while fostering a sense of responsibility and privilege.


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