Ten years ago, I was an intern at the company where I work now. I remember my first few days as I tried to figure out what time I should take a lunch break and where the bathroom was because no one let me in on those vital pieces of information. It was my first real job, and I wanted to impress everyone—so I was afraid to ask questions because I thought that would make me look incompetent.
Being an intern can be overwhelming and disorienting at first. Unlike moving from one job to another, for many interns, this could be their first foray into a corporate culture, and they may not know the ins and outs of office etiquette. This is where a mentor comes in.
Mentoring interns allows them to grow and ask questions in a safe environment. It also provides them with someone outside of their direct manager who can help them find their footing.
To give your intern a comfortable start, follow these simple guidelines:
- Meet early.
Introduce yourself to your intern on day one. Even if he’s had a tour of the building, it doesn’t hurt to show him around again, especially where you sit so he can find you. Ask him questions to get to know him as you walk around.
This initial meeting is also a great time to cover things like acceptable office attire, upcoming holidays when the office might be closed, and any office social activities.
- Be available.
Don’t just meet your intern once, say you’re here if she needs anything, and then disappear. It’s unlikely she’ll seek you out unless something is terribly wrong. It’s better to check in with her every few days to see if she has questions.
- Know what he’s working on.
If you don’t know what your intern has on his plate, you can’t help him or suggest resources that may be available. Keeping up with his assignments allows you to gauge his workload and get insights into how he’s doing.
- Lead the conversation.
An intern may be too shy or nervous to come right out and say she has a problem, that she’s having trouble meeting a deadline, or that she doesn’t understand a project. Ask leading questions like, “How’s your workload?” or “Were you able to find the information you needed to complete that report?” This gives her an opening to express how she’s really feeling.
- Encourage questions.
Don’t just tell your intern to let you know if he has any questions. Really drive the point home with an anecdotal example if you can. Start with something like, “I remember when I first started here, I couldn’t get the printer unjammed and spent an hour trying to fix it. I wish I’d asked for help.” This reassures him that there are no stupid questions.
- Help her network.
Are you on a committee at work? Why not take your intern to that meeting so she can see how it runs? Are you taking a client to lunch? Take your intern too. Expose her to as many opportunities as you can. Encourage her to interact with colleagues in the hallway too. It also helps to set up brief meetings for your intern with colleagues across functions in the organization so she can meet new people, learn what they do, and understand how you all work together.
- Create camaraderie.
If you have more than one intern in your office, introduce them to each other and/or take them out for a group lunch or coffee. Establishing this network of peers can help interns feel less isolated and bolster their confidence.
- Track his growth.
Assign a special project to your intern and ask him to give a brief presentation on the project to the team at the end of his time at the company. This will help him build up presentation skills, and you may gain a fresh perspective on a company challenge in the process!
Following these guidelines will help you set your intern up for success so he or she can be a happy, functioning member of your organization right from the start.
Image Credit: pexels.com/Tirachard Kumtanom