Spreading Pixie Dust: The Care and Feeding of Great Interns

In today’s society, there is an abundance of eager, ambitious and smart recent college graduates that are flooding the marketplace looking for their first “real job.” I have interviewed hundreds of candidates and in addition to grades, leadership opportunities and references, I specifically look for internship experience. I believe that a good intern, can become a great employee. So for me, creating a great internship experience is a good investment for our company.

Featured Below: Jacqui DePas Photography

Patchette Interns

Simply having an internship program isn’t the same as having a GREAT internship program. Truth be told, we didn’t start with a focused and strategic program. However, we’ve carefully perfected and grown our program every year and am happy to share my thoughts so you don’t make the same mistakes I did!

1. Don’t assume anything. Interns typically haven’t had any real experience in the work place, nor have they had any experience with producing deliverables within a super-short time frame. When giving directions, be clear and concise. Even better…write down the job tasks and ask them to use this description; edit the description; and improve the description as they go. Be careful to explain company acronyms and company culture. More than once I think I’ve been crystal clear in my communication, only to find out that the intern has no idea what a POS is, or who DFP represents. And because they are afraid to sound or appear completely ignorant, they come to a complete standstill. Or worse, they spend an entire day completing a project only to have someone else re-create it the next day.

Action Shot - Marketing

2. Include them in decisions. I know they are new, young, and virgins to your industry. So why ask for their opinions, you say? Honestly, my best answer is because they are a fantastic focus group into the world of millennials. Want to know how they interpret a concept, or view a particular strategy? These students are happy to provide their opinion on how they see your competitors and your brand awareness.

Interns love being included and in our company, our interns love the direct access they have to me (the business owner) and they enjoy a complete open door policy with any of our Patchettes. They see and meet virtually every staff member and we treat them as though they are part of our ever-growing extended Patch family.  

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3. Respect the work that they provide to your company. It’s true, they are only in the position for a few months- but if they don’t add value to your organization, you shouldn’t have the position. Which means that without them, someone else (perhaps even you?) would have to carry their workload. Be grateful and appreciative of their loyalty and dedication daily and watch for the dividends to flow through to your company.

I strongly believe internships should be full of hands-on experience, variety, and constant feedback. Internships should NOT be fetching coffee, filing papers or answering phones. Today’s interns want to better understand your company and are anxious to make their mark, and leave your employment with a positive reference and possibly even a job offer! In my experience, if training for a position takes longer than an hour- it’s not a great fit for an intern. 

Action Shot - Design Team

Most employers are offering entry level positions to prior interns. And for those that you do not extend an offer- you are teaching skills and giving great resume value to those that are just starting out. So you are also doing a good deed and paying it forward in the corporate community!

Our prior interns have successfully tracked trends, gained valuable social media followers, updated our website and improved processes internally.  When we’ve extended offers to prior interns, we find that these employees tend to be the most loyal, dependable and knowledgeable workers within our company.

Some companies believe that they are either too small to organize an internship program, or too large to need one. And to this I simply say- not true! Adding interns to your company culture is like getting a fresh coat of paint to your bedroom every quarter: they add new perspectives, the feeling of a new start and increase the financial value of your home. And if you don’t like the exact color of paint you chose- don’t worry, because you can try a new color in three months. 

Until next time, here’s to big wishes and pixie dust.

Xoxo, 

Heidi