Posts tagged ‘managing interns’

How can I make sure virtual internships stay on track?

As you know, virtual internships offer a number of benefits to both large and small businesses alike. But some employers worry that keeping remote internships on track might mean installing spyware and a hidden camera. Not so. Managing remote interns is actually easier than employers imagine… especially with the help of the following tips:

  • (Still) Assign a supervisor. Just because interns aren’t in your office, doesn’t mean they don’t need a manager. And virtual interns certainly shouldn’t be “on their own” after training ends. In fact, designating a strong supervisor may be even more important when a student is offsite.
  • Schedule twice-daily updates. Have interns touch base by phone or email with their supervisor at both the beginning and end of each day. In the morning, the conversation should confirm what they’ll be working on. At the end of the day, they should provide a report on their progress.

The advantage is twofold: First, the check-ins will ensure a structure to the flow of work—and that more important projects are prioritized. Secondly, when students know they’ll have to account for their activities at the end of the workday, they are far less likely to procrastinate or slack off.

  • Calendar a weekly call. Have interns set a standing weekly phone call with their supervisor. During this call, the supervisor should give feedback, answer questions, and preview upcoming projects.

While some employers prefer email check-ins, phone calls allow much more personal interaction. Since you’re not getting to know the student onsite, talking every week gives you a better idea of how an intern might fit with fulltime employees on an ongoing basis.

  • Implement a time-tracking system. Especially for paid internship programs, it is absolutely crucial you set up a standard time-tracking system.

Essentially, you have the option of setting up a manual system or a computerized method. For manual systems, interns are sent a timesheet template. The student simply types into the document each day and time-period they work. At the end of the week or month, they email the sheet back to the supervisor.

If you have multiple interns, you might invest in a computerized time-tracking system. This software enables hourly employees to log in and out at the press of a button and automatically tallies time at the end of each pay period. Whichever method you choose, however, make sure you tell interns to log or timeout for breaks and any personal interruptions.

  • Instruct interns to track time by project. You don’t want to get a timesheet that simply says “17 hours”—or you’ll be left struggling to recall the specific assignments. Instead, include a space on your sheet for “task or project,” and instruct students to write what they worked on during each block. This will let you know how long tasks are taking, so you can make modifications if necessary.
  • Encourage questions. Interns should feel like the lines of communication are open for questions. Many times, offsite interns are timid to reach out for information or clarification because they worry they’re bothering supervisors. Errors are often the result… errors you have to remedy.
  • Consider an initial in-person meeting. Even though it’s a virtual internship, you might consider meeting face to face at first or training onsite. For interns who live locally, actually seeing how things work can be beneficial. Some companies even have virtual interns come into the office on a weekly or monthly basis.

September 27, 2010 at 4:41 pm Leave a comment

Q. How can I monitor interns to make sure they are succeeding at their internship?

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.

May 12, 2010 at 9:44 am Leave a comment

Virtual internships: tapping student talent from a distance

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:

  1. How much mentoring and feedback will I receive?
  2. Who is my key point of contact and how often do we make contact?
  3. What is the type of work and what are the expectations?
  4. Will I receive payment or college credit?
  5. How many hours a week are involved and for how long a period?
  6. Will I get a letter of reference if I do a good job?
  7. 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.

May 7, 2010 at 10:57 am Leave a comment

Consider appointing an Intern Manager

by writer

Are you committed to having an intern at your company this summer? Consider selecting a junior employee to be the Intern Manager. Be sure to choose an employee who has great people skills and would be a positive mentor to an intern. This move, selecting an Intern Manager is a positive on many levels. It puts a system in place for welcoming and mentoring interns, it frees senior managers for other assignments, and it’s an honor for the junior employee who is selected to take the role of Intern Manager. Below are a few tips:

1.   Appoint one junior employee to be in charge of interns as Intern Manager and point of contact and to mentor and monitor intern performance.. The junior employee also increases the intern’s comfort level since the intern will enjoy working with a younger employee closer to his or her own age.

2.   Allow your Intern Manager time in his/her schedule to coordinate each intern’s schedule with the appropriate manager. Arrange for the intern to spend a certain amount of time either daily or weekly with the Intern Manager to review progress. Establish a clear chain of command, ensuring that your employees know if they have any concerns about the intern, they can get help from the Intern Manager.  

3.   Send a broadcast email to your employee distribution list that announces the intern, gives a sentence or two about him/her, and asks staff to extend a warm welcome. On the day that the intern starts, the Intern Manager should take the intern on a tour and introduce the new member to individual staff.

4.   Arrange for the Intern Manager to meet with the intern on Day #1 and discuss expectations and outcomes on both sides. Set the intern up to succeed by starting with small projects and graduating to more complicated and lengthy assignments.

April 3, 2010 at 12:21 am 1 comment

Characteristics of Hispanic Millennial interns

by Miguel Corona

One of the most talked and written about generation of Americans are Millennials. While there is some debate on dates, Millennials include people born roughly between 1982 and 2002. While the term “Millennial” is most associated in describing this generation, some have used other descriptors such as “Generation Next,” “Boomer Babies,” “Net Gen,” and other terms. Without a doubt, this generation has gained attention in areas such as education, business, and the workplace. Chances are good your organization currently has or will soon employ an intern from this generation. And like other generations, Millennials are symbolized by their own set of characteristics. Given the diversity of this generation, more attention is being placed on the impact culture might have on how Millennials are characterized. This is particularly true of Hispanic Millennials.

According to the U.S. Census, close to 20% of all Millennials in the United States are Hispanic. This statistic emphasizes the young age of the Hispanic population and the diversity of all Millennials. Hispanic Millennials share many of the same characteristics of mainstream Millennials. Some of these characteristics also closely parallel Hispanic cultural traits: conventional (respectful, not questioning authority); confident (goal-oriented, and confident in themselves); sheltered (highly protected as children); team oriented (team-oriented rather than individualistic); and technically inclined (grew up being familiar with technology). Hispanic Millennials, however, hold a deep respect for their culture’s values, customs, and beliefs. While much attention has already been given to Hispanic Millennials in a marketing and social media context; there is a growing interest about the characteristics of Hispanic Millennials in the workplace.

Results from a recent study share some of these characteristics. What do Hispanic Millennials value most in the workplace? Three factors are most valued by Hispanic Millennials in the workplace: promotion opportunities, supervisors, and co-workers. According to the study, Hispanic Millennials place a much higher value on promotional opportunities than the general Millennial population. Additionally, Hispanic Millennials perceive a higher sense of support from organizations in a work setting. Finally, when compared to previous Hispanic generations, Hispanic Millennials perceive a lower sense of discrimination in the workplace.    

What these results show is that Hispanic Millennials are a generation that expects to be provided with organizational opportunities. They very much want to develop and benefit from their hard work. To increase the likelihood that Hispanic Millennial interns flourish, assure that you’re organization is providing them with a solid developmental program that includes exposure to more experienced managers or leaders (mentors). Verify their work assignments are challenging and communicate how their work efforts are adding value to the organization as a whole. Finally, make sure to leverage their partiality toward working in teams, and minimize projects that have them working alone.  

Related Study: “Ready or Not: Hispanic Millennials Are Here,” The Business Journal of Hispanic Research, 2008, Vol. 2, No. 1, 50-60.

March 23, 2010 at 3:12 pm Leave a comment

Taking the non-traditional path

by Miguel Corona

Traditionally, employers are aware that college students follow a certain road on their way to graduation. The path college students take from school to career can even be described as a “pipeline.” Generally, most students enter college; spend a couple of years adjusting to the campus environment; spend a summer or two working or traveling; and finally graduate and enter the workforce. In most cases, the journey through this pipeline takes somewhere between four to six years. When I think back to my college educational experience, as well as the experiences of the Hispanic college students I’ve talked to over the last fifteen years, the educational pipeline is much different. For me and other Hispanic college students, using the pipeline metaphor might not capture our experiences as accurately as it should. Let me explain by using my journey as an example.

To start, I worked full-time almost five years before setting foot on a college campus. Part of the reason for working full-time was to contribute to the family household, buy a car, and save money in order to go to college. Once enrolled as a full-time college student, I either worked on-campus as a student employee or off-campus to earn extra money to pay for college expenses that my financial aid didn’t cover. And while I did take advantage of school breaks, most of my summers were spent going to school and working in order to graduate within four years (I actually did it in 3 ½). My experience as an undergraduate was not any different than many Hispanic college students today. And while I was fortunate to not have to interrupt my education, many Hispanic college students must do this in order to address many of the same financial factors I described earlier.   

So rather than illustrating the Hispanic college student experience as a pipeline, I think it resembles a pattern of on-ramps and off-ramps; school, work and back to school. It’s an important difference for employers to understand, especially if it doesn’t fit the usual college pipeline characteristics. For example, a non-traditional student pattern can extend time-to-graduation timelines or limit involvement in campus activities. On the other hand, what this unique experience does provide you as an employer are highly responsible, committed, and driven interns. It takes a lot of determination and focus to get through this process. The confidence, maturity, and other work skills Hispanic college students obtain resulting from this non-traditional experience should be leveraged and utilized to benefit your organization.

March 18, 2010 at 7:28 pm Leave a comment

About this blog

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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