Career Development

10 Things I’ve learned from my interns

Internships are a great way for students to get hands on experience in their industry, network with professionals and learn valuable professional lessons that can’t always be taught in the classroom.

But this learning isn’t always one sided.

I’ve learned as much from my interns as I have (hopefully) taught them.

You are not just supervising a college student for 10 hours a week for three months. You have an opportunity to make a difference in someone’s life, have a hand in shaping them as a professional and if you listen and observe, you can learn a lot about yourself and your company.

10 Things I’ve learned from my interns:

  1. Students will exceed your expectations. College students have an amazing ability to run with a project. Give them the room to spread their wings and you will be amazed where they will fly.
  1. I had it easy as an undergrad. I lived on campus, was a full-time student, involved in campus organizations/events and completed research experiences and internships. I had support from my family, and the little money I made from part-time work I was able to spend or save. Most of the interns I have supervised are working another (or 2) part-time jobs, going to school full time and involved in leadership positions on campus. They commute from home, have household responsibilities (cleaning, cooking, watching siblings, etc.) and the money they make they use to support themselves and at times, contribute to their family’s income. Also, state tuition is a lot higher than it was 10 years ago. By comparison, our undergraduate experiences are drastically different and therefore makes me an advocate for paid internships for our students.
  1. What’s trending. From social media to cultural references to “did you see that video…” your interns will keep you in the know about what is going viral. Pro tip – a great project to keep them engaged and to encourage this natural skill is assigning them to research what are the best practices in your industry, and ideas they have about implementing those changes at your organization.
  1. Soundcloud. That is all. Specifically, the Sounds of Monte Carlo Playlists, which is perfect office music, for a Sunday afternoon by the pool, or if you get to choose the music at your next happy hour/networker/party. Start with #37 and work your way up from there!
  1. How to explain what I do to someone that doesn’t know. Honing in on this skill from training your intern can translate to a better narrative and communication strategy when working with a potential client, a new team member or preparing for a media interview.
  1. Giving productive feedback and holding others accountable. One of the first things to do when bringing on an intern (and hopefully when onboarding any new member of your team) is to set clear goals and expectations. With new professionals, constructive feedback is part of the learning process. My first time supervising staff members happened to be interns, and those conversations allowed me to grow as a professional, a supervisor and as a leader.
  1. New software and technology. When I was supervising graphic design interns, they opened up my world to the complex beauty of Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign. I was fascinated with what they could do and wanted to learn more. I was able to take 3 Adobe classes and gained the confidence, understanding and foundational skills to use the software as well. By being open to their skills and interests, it allowed me to grow and evolve as a well-rounded professional.
  1. What I’m doing wrong. Nothing like a fresh pair of eyes to look at a process and ask, “Why are you doing things this way?” Not only do you have to justify and explain what you do, it gives you time to critically reflect and say, “Why am I doing it this way?” One of my graduate interns looked at all my checklists and rearranged them by color and function so it was easier and faster to read. I use different colors on my calendar, and never thought to carry that organization over to my spreadsheets. Just a simple observation made all the difference.
  1. Career rejuvenation. When you are teaching someone that wants to go into your industry, you nostalgically remember the time when you were just starting out and why you wanted to go into this industry as well. Everything is new and exciting, the future is open and the possibilities are endless. It’s a time when you get to reflect and remember what drove you to pursue this career as well. If you lost that drive, it’s a time to reflect on what may make you happier in the future.
  1. They will help you in your future. One of my supervisors used to say, “You’re going to hire me one day!” Now, I don’t know if she meant this literally, but I loved this empowerment concept from my supervisor. It was genuine, showed that she believed in me and encouraged me to go far in my career. Titles, promotions and positions change and we never know what the future holds. I say that statement with the interns I supervise because one day, they might be my boss! You are training a young professional in your industry. What a great ally to have down the road.

This semester I will be supervising another graduate intern, and I am excited about what upcoming lessons I will be learning from him.



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