Posts tagged ‘internship question’

Q. When I told our interns that they were under dressing for work, they blamed the hot summer weather for their scanty outfits. What should I do?

by the Intern Coach

A. It’s true that this is the hottest summer in recorded US weather history, but that doesn’t excuse their inappropriate appearance. The Baltimore Sun recently published an article about your problem. Here are a few tips from that piece: 

  • You’re not alone. In Washington, DC, where they’ve never quite forgotten Monica Lewinsky, a name has evolved for the scantily-clad summer staff:  “skinterns.”  A vice president of human resources, who hires 80 interns a year, says she “nips the problem in the bud with an up-front discussion about standards and expectations.” It’s not that they come in and look sloppy, but they’re showing up in bar clothes. She wants them to represent the company name with integrity and professionalism.
  • In a recent episode of “Curb Your Enthusiasm” called “The Bare Midriff,” Larry David is disgruntled that his new secretary is wearing a shirt that exposes her tummy. When he confronts her, she says she’s proud of her body and wants to flaunt it. His reply:  “You can flaunt two-thirds of the day outside the office and then you have one-third non-flaunt,” her tells her. “Why not take a break in the flaunt?”
  • One HR Director sends female employees/interns home to change if their dress is inappropriate. Another option is to keep a supply of t-shirts readily available, so an intern can cover up, presenting a more modest appearance. If an intern receives several warnings and still doesn’t arrive in proper office attire, the internship for that student is terminated, according to the HR Director.
  • You could also call the students’ career centers and discuss the issue with the staff. Then, a staff member could reinforce to the intern that wearing booty shorts, cleavage-baring tops, or see-through skirts to the office is inappropriate, regardless of the temperature. You could suggest that the school follow the lead of many universities and offer a one-credit elective course on professional skills for business, clarifying dress issues.
  • Emphasize to your interns that you want them to put their best foot forward when they meet clients and customers because they reflect your company. Rather than scold the interns, offer them a list of acceptable clothing standards for the company. Remind them to take a better-safe-than-sorry approach, erring on the conservative side. They may even thank you.

July 27, 2010 at 11:29 am Leave a comment

Q. When there are issues with an intern’s performance, how should I handle the intern’s request for a reference?

by the Intern Coach

A. That’s a sensitive issue. You want to be honest but not damage the intern’s future prospects. You might want to do some research before you make your decision since each case is different, depending on the individual and the situation. Here are a few points to ponder:

  • Review the job expectations as explained before the internship began, making sure that the company didn’t change the internship descriptions in the course of the internship period. Other areas in which the intern could fault the company rather than himself/herself would be if there was an unexpected change in intern supervisors or other compromising situations. Find out if your employees tried to help the intern improve his/her performance or were co-workers too busy to bother.
  • Ask the intern’s supervisor and co-workers for their evaluations. You could discover that the intern actually performed well in one area, so you might be able to at least offer one positive comment on the reference. Then, you could abstain from commenting on the negative aspects of the intern’s performance. However, if the intern committed unpardonable acts, such as stealing from the company or disappearing from the internship site without explanation, then you would have to consider refusing to write a reference letter.
  • Meet with the intern to discuss the issues. You might find out that the intern had personal problems or issues that impacted his/her ability to perform up to expectations. Then, you’d have to use your own personal judgment to decide what to include in the reference letter. Keep in mind that a positive reference letter could open new doors for a young person, but a poor one can close doors for a long time, especially in a weak economy.
  • Consult with the school’s career center about your conundrum. The staff may have a solution or be able to cast more light on the situation. You want to safeguard your relationship with the school in order to get future interns that will add value to your company. If you and the school counselor—together—conclude that the student did a poor job and does not deserve a good reference, then you can advise the student that it’s a joint decision, limiting your culpability. Then, you might be doing the student a favor because he/she will strive for improved performance in the future, resulting in excellent reference letters.

July 20, 2010 at 11:02 am Leave a comment

Q. How can the staff express thanks to our hard-working interns?

by the Intern Coach

A. Taking time out of your busy schedule to determine the best way for the staff to express thanks to your hard-working interns is important to everyone. The interns will appreciate your efforts, and the staff members will enjoy the satisfaction of knowing they’ve helped mentor young people. Here are some tips on how to proceed:

  • Schedule a thank-you event for the interns on the last day. You could plan a luncheon to honor the interns or hold a small reception with light refreshments. At the event, interns could receive Certificates of Achievement for completing the internship. You may want to present each intern with a small gift from the company, such as a coffee mug, key chain, or quality pen engraved with the company’s name. Another option would be to give each intern a gift certificate to be used for a company product if applicable or for a popular café or restaurant.
  • Write a glowing thank-you letter to the intern and have it signed by all staff members who worked with the intern. If you prefer a more informal approach, select an appropriate thank-you card. Please keep in mind that this group thank-you letter or card does not replace the formal letter of recommendation or reference, which is provided by each internship supervisor for every intern. Make sure that this formal document is completed and given to the intern before the internship ends. Your interns will be grateful for the timely delivery since they may be applying for another internship. Both the staff thank-you letter or card and the formal letter of recommendation will be excellent additions to the students’ portfolios.
  • Suggest that the staff members offer to help their student interns document their internship achievements. The company could provide a handsome file or folder with the company’s name on it. Then, the staff could work with the interns to organize the appropriate materials, including documents, photos, company brochures or annual reports, relevant correspondence, and online exhibits. Divide up the assignments, asking different people to handle various aspects in order to include all staff in the process and not overwhelm any one employee.
  • Practice diplomacy, ensuring that everyone—from staff members to interns—feels like he/she has performed well and contributed to a successful internship experience. Each intern should be thanked and treated equally even if one intern has performed on a higher level than another. You can emphasize superior performance in the individual recommendation letter rather than in a public pronouncement. Do give the staff equal credit, too, thanking each of them for helping the interns learn new skills.

July 6, 2010 at 11:03 am Leave a comment

Q. What incentives can I use to help our interns finish deadline projects on time?

by the Intern Coach

A. In the best of all possible worlds, your interns would be swept along in a wave of enthusiasm with your other employees as everyone worked together to finish deadline projects on time. However, this is not always the case, so you may need some innovative ways to inspire your interns. Here are a few tips:  

  • Please realize that your interns may not have developed the ability to work at an accelerated speed to finish a project and may not understand why such a goal is important. It’s up to the intern supervisor to mentor the intern, educating him/her on the details as to why the project is meaningful and what would be the consequences if the project doesn’t meet the deadline.
  • Incentives for interns can range from a free lunch in the company cafeteria to tickets to a baseball game or special dinner, where the company has a block of tickets. When your intern finishes a project on or ahead of deadline, you could recognize him/her in the company newsletter for outstanding efforts.
  • Some companies use a point system to reward interns and to help them establish professional work habits. For example, if your intern finishes a project, he/she would receive a certain number of points.  If he/she finishes it before deadline, the intern earns more points. Being on time for work deserves points, not missing any days scores points etc. At the end of the internship, the intern may have reached the gold standard in terms of points and be awarded a certificate as well as a cash prize or other remuneration.
  • If a deadline project is quite large and very important towards reaching the company’s bottom-line, then you might offer incentives not only to your interns but to your employees. You’ll find your intern will model the behavior of the other employees, so if your staff is highly motivated, your intern will probably be inspired to finish deadline projects on time, too.

June 23, 2010 at 10:25 am Leave a comment

Q. What if the student’s self-assessment of their performance isn’t in alignment with the company’s?

by the Intern Coach

A. If the student thinks he/she is not performing up to company expectations, but the company is totally satisfied with the student, that’s not a serious problem. You can simply assure the insecure intern that you’re very pleased with his/her work. However, if the student perceives that he/she is doing an excellent job while the company begs to differ, that’s a complicated problem. Here are some solutions to get everyone in agreement: 

  • The internship manager needs to compare the student and the company assessments to discover the discrepancies. After isolating the problem areas from the company viewpoint, the manager should devise a list of suggestions on how the intern can improve those problem areas. Also note any problems that the intern alleges with the company.
  • The most challenging step is sitting down with the intern and explaining the company’s concerns and how the intern can address those issues. First, select an area in which the student is meeting company expectations and compliment the intern on a job well done. Then, point out the areas that need to have improvement, emphasizing that the student will benefit by increasing his/her skill set.  
  • Be positive in your suggestions and phrase your sentences carefully. For example, instead of saying, “You aren’t getting your reports in on time, and you’re working too slowly,” try saying, “We’d like to see the reports in earlier; if you feel overwhelmed with other duties, we can lighten your load.”
  • Rather than blaming the intern with the word “you” for poor performance, you’re focusing on teamwork with the word “we” and the company’s desire to help the intern achieve success. It’s helpful for you and the student intern to set revised goals together, so he/she can take appropriate steps to improve performance.
  • After you have this conversation with your student, check in on a daily basis to see how the student is progressing in reaching the goals. Keep up a teamwork attitude, so the student feels supported in these efforts. By the next evaluation period, the company and the intern should be in alignment on assessments. 

June 16, 2010 at 10:58 am Leave a comment


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This blog is dedicated to employers with a focus on how to hire and manage interns effectively. We will have a variety of experts who will share helpful ideas, tips and more. We invite you to comment, ask questions and share your experiences. You are also welcome to submit written contributions to this blog.

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