Posts tagged ‘managing’

Grow an internship program focused on teaching

By writer

It makes sense that interns, with little office experience, have yet to figure out their own work limitations or the best way to ask for assistance. But this is what an internship is for—experience, learning new skills, finding independence in the work setting, and understanding when to ask for help.

Once, I had an intern submit Excel spreadsheets with a ton of mistakes. My first reaction (luckily, I hid this first reaction with a smile) was annoyance; I had counted on using the data prepared by the intern in the report I was working on. I knew I had two choices in this situation: I could reply to the intern with the ubiquitous “good job” and remember not to give him any more Excel projects, or I could take the time to figure out why the work wasn’t what I had expected. I didn’t think it was laziness. This particular intern did not seem the type to slack off. I had a sneaking suspicion he just didn’t know how to use Excel, and had been too nervous to speak up when I handed him the task.

I knew this was the time for a teaching moment. I reviewed Excel with the intern and showed him simple ways he could take his work to the next level.  Sure enough, no one had bothered to teach him simple Excel functions.  I made sure to emphasize that in his original document, he had all the numbers I needed, but the organization and level of functionality required for me to utilize his work was not present.  We talked about simple formatting tricks, and I explained more advanced functions that might be useful later.  By making it clear to him I was going to do a lot more with his spreadsheet than just print it and look at the numbers, I hoped to give him a better sense of the importance of his work. I also hoped that through this experience, he would see me as someone he could approach with work questions, rather than fumbling around trying to learn new skills without assistance.

In all, this training took about one hour.  While I had other projects I needed to work on during that time, I knew the Excel training was a gift that would keep on giving – for both my company and the intern.  The student’s subsequent work was improved and I was able to use his spreadsheets in my own work.  In the end, the company got more productivity, and the student learned Excel skills that he will utilize and build on well into his career.

February 13, 2010 at 12:47 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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