Archive for May, 2010
by the Intern Coach
A. The sooner you correct this situation the better. You have two main options: (1) either help the intern reorganize or restructure in order to meet the goals, or (2) change the goals and reset new ones with the help of your intern to ensure that he/she can meet them. Here are some tips to help you decide which option is the better solution:
- Schedule a meeting with the intern’s immediate supervisor to create a specific list of unmet goals. Try to discover if there were any extenuating circumstances, such as the intern called in sick, the computer system was down, the necessary meeting was cancelled, reports were lost etc. Also, look for any personality issues that may be causing problems. Does the intern perform the work incorrectly because he/she doesn’t ask questions first? Are the directions clear? Is the intern working too slowly or talking too much resulting in missed deadlines and unmet goals?
- Now that you have one side of the story, set a meeting with the intern to explore the intern’s version of why goals are not being met. The intern may be unaware of the situation and think he/she is doing an excellent job. Or the intern may have been too intimidated by his/her supervisor to ask clarifying questions, not wanting to appear dumb or unprepared. If the intern is keeping a daily journal on work activities, ask him/her to share the journal with you, so you can assess the problem. You may discover that the intern is unhappy with the assignments, co-workers, supervisor, or even the company, which is compromising his/her performance.
- Based on the information that you’ve collected from both parties, you may want to suggest a new set of goals that are compatible with the intern and the supervisor. If you do recommend new goals, don’t blame anyone for the failure of the first set. You may even want to ask the intern to create his/her own new goals, based on his/her knowledge of the company. You can be sure that these goals will be met since the intern has full ownership.
- If you don’t want to establish new goals, you could assign a mentor to help the intern get back on track. The mentor could be a more senior intern or a junior employee that could empathize with the intern’s inexperience. Whatever you do, don’t fire your intern; you’ll only generate anger from the intern and confusion from the school. Everyone involved will appreciate your successful efforts in solving the problem—and goals will then be met.
Q. How can I tell my intern that he/she is talking too much to co-workers or exhibiting unprofessional behavior?
by the Intern Coach
A. You’ll be doing your interns a big favor by mentoring their business protocol. Most interns are comfortable in college dorm settings or in social situations with peers, but are inexperienced on professional behavior. Here’s are some suggestions to help them adjust to their new environment:
- Whatever the issue, tactfully discuss it with your intern in private as to not embarrass them in front of co-workers. Preface your talk with a positive comment such as, “You’re off to a good start here,” or, “Your work is excellent, but there’s one way in which you could improve.”
- Handle each issue separately. For example, if your intern is spending too much time talking to co-workers, explain that everyone enjoys talking to them, but too much talk is distracting and cuts into completing work on time. Suggest that your intern curtail office chat and arrange to continue conversations over lunch or after work. Building a social network is usually done off the company time clock.
- Reinforce the idea that your intern has your support, creating a bond between yourself and your intern. Your intern will take well to your comments if he or she feels that you are trying to help them be more successful.
- If your intern has a questionable habit, like loudly chewing gum or patting everyone on the back, or makes inappropriate office jokes, point out the intern’s errors. If possible, use the company rules and regulations handbook to support your comments, which will take the pressure off of you. The handbook takes the sting out of your constructive criticism because it relies on pointing on the standards for everyone.
- When you try to restructure a negative behavior, make sure you balance your comments with statements on the intern’s positive behavior. And please don’t ask a co-worker to correct an intern’s inappropriate behavior. You’re the best person to resolve this sensitive problem.
by the Intern Coach
A. Good question! You need to track your new interns’ activities and make sure the interns are performing their duties to company expectations—and school expectations, too, especially if they are earning academic credits. If you have more than one intern, it can be overwhelming for you to keep tabs on everyone. You may be the point of contact, but consider these ways to make your job easier:
- Discuss the company expectations with each intern on the first day. Then, you are both on the same page—literally. Provide a schedule and calendar for the entire internship period, so the intern knows the goals and the deadlines for each assignment.
- Introduce the intern(s) to each department and present the intern work calendar to the department head. Then, the department head takes over, ensuring the intern meets everyone in the department, achieves a good comfort level, and understands the duties.
- Request that the department head or the person in that department who is supervising the intern file a weekly report with you on the intern’s activities and accomplishments. Ask the intern to also file a report, stating what he/she has done that week.
- Schedule a weekly 15-minute appointment with each intern to talk about the internship. If you have multiple interns, you could hold one meeting with all the interns, facilitating an exchange of information among the group and encouraging professional relationships.
- Monitor your intern in case an internship experience is derailed and needs assistance getting back on track. Some signs of a problem might be an intern who is consistently late for work, calls in sick on a regular basis, or who spends too much time on their cell phone. In these situations, jump in early and work with the intern to improve the situation.
by the Intern Coach
Erin T., a Journalism major at the University of Pittsburgh, wants to work in New York City, after graduation—for a magazine like Cosmopolitan. She knew she needed to have internship experience to achieve her goal. But an internship in the Big Apple was out of the question—housing would be too expensive and she’d have to give up her part-time job that helped pay her college tuition.
Then, she discovered the perfect solution—a virtual internship with the online edition of a startup lifestyle publication located in New York City. She earned 3 credits for writing 10 articles of 1,000 words each over a 10-week period. “The company encouraged me to find my own topics and even gave me a byline,” says Erin. “I worked from a computer in my dorm at my convenience and still held down a part-time job.
Erin is part of the growing group of interns taking advantage of virtual internships that remove geographical barriers, allowing students to sample different fields or concentrate on a niche industry while still going to classes and working. More and more employers—especially small to midsize ones—offer virtual internships because they have a larger pool of talented candidates, and they save money on office overhead. It’s a win-win situation for everyone.
The most common virtual internships are in information technology, software development, research, sales, marketing, blogging, and social media. Companies are looking for self-reliant, self-starters who are comfortable with web conferences, emails, and phone calls.
Companies should expect students to follow the traditional process to apply for a virtual internship—resume, cover letter and a phone interview. Students applying for virtual internships may have the following questions:
- How much mentoring and feedback will I receive?
- Who is my key point of contact and how often do we make contact?
- What is the type of work and what are the expectations?
- Will I receive payment or college credit?
- How many hours a week are involved and for how long a period?
- Will I get a letter of reference if I do a good job?
- Could I view the work of former virtual interns?
The downside of virtual internships is that intern managers may not meet the students working for them. However, Lee H., a science major who researched projects for a non-profit in a virtual internship, liked developing his own way of doing things. “I learned how to work independently and more efficiently.” He pointed out that millions of people already work virtually across the US.
It’s also possible that virtual internships are a way to extend a traditional internship. Keisha P. enjoyed her traditional 3-month summer internship in marketing so much that she didn’t want it to end. She asked her supervisor if she could continue with the company in a virtual internship during the school year. Now she’s preparing PowerPoint presentations and emailing clients from the comfort of her home.
The exploding number of online organizations indicates the future increase in virtual internships. For example, online schooling is expanding rapidly. In response, the University of Florida offers virtual internships to prepare student teachers for the new world of the virtual school. The advent of virtual internships in all fields gives students multiple opportunities for both traditional and virtual career-related experiences—adding considerable value to the academic degree.
by Paul Sevcik
Many questions swirl about when considering moving an intern to a full-time hire. After looking at your budget and seeing that there is room to grow the team, you might still have questions. For example:
1. Will the intern make a positive contribution to our team if we hire them? (think ‘ROI’)
2. Do we have the room to fit them into our current processes? (think ‘team’)
3. Are they actually interested in working for us? (think ‘interest’)
None of these questions are easy to answer because they’re multi-faceted and probably involve more than one person’s input. Here is a real-life example from our office:
After we had an intern candidate go through our screening process, we invited her for an interview and learned that she was interested in international work and that she was fantastic at keeping things organized. We started by having her attend our in-house training on Role-Based Assessment and becoming officially certified in it.
We then started her on work in translations we desperately needed (she was strong in a particular language we were looking to grow support in). Over her three months in the internship, we eventually transitioned her to communicate directly with our clients in that market. Additionally, she attended all our company meetings and built strong relationships with each person at the office.
As a result of her escalating responsibility and commitment, we gave her more tasks involving keeping the employees at our rapidly-developing startup organized. We soon saw her as indispensible and every employee was benefiting from her contributions. The value she brought to the company was clear and losing her was not in our best interest. Over several conversations, we made her an offer and were happy to see her accept.
Today, this intern is employed full-time at The Gabriel Institute doing work she enjoys. The transition was pretty simple and just involved official paperwork because she already had a strong foundation in what we do.
Jenny is not the only example of a successful connection through TGI. We do not close relationships with our interns just because their calendar time with us has ended. They remain in contact with us as developments happen. They may not receive our top-secret day-to-day insider news, but are included on all ‘partner’ communications that create excitement about the company. This may lead them to return to us later as other full-time hires. After all, if they were good enough to hire once and made positive contributions during their time with us, why not invite them back?
Each organization is unique and their particular situation is different, but ROI, teaming, and interest from the intern are all important to consider!