Maximize your time with summer interns

Undoubtedly the office is buzzing when the summer intern class joins the team.

Undoubtedly the office is buzzing when the summer intern class joins the team. Some employees are excited to have help checking off projects from the ?should do? list, and some use it as a time to brush up on their mentoring skills.

Personally, I love the new energy of an intern, the youthful perspective, and their willingness to contribute with a smile.

I am a firm believer in the concept of reverse mentoring and think the intern experience should be mutually beneficial for employees and interns. What do interns think about the experience? And how are they being properly prepared for the workforce? I went directly to the source and interviewed the HL Group class of summer interns to understand how future PR and communications talent is being prepared.

When I asked the group how college is preparing them for the workforce and which courses they felt were most beneficial, those geared towards "real life"? received high marks. With 12 interns and 12 universities represented, I noticed one thing in common: a desire for direct research collaborations between students and businesses, which led me to think about the opportunities that exist for more partnerships with universities and upcoming talent.

In my discussions, I heard about courses that tasked students with developing a personal brand logo for themselves inclusive of a visual identity and marketing materials, to classes that required the design and construct of a virtual portfolio. Their enthusiasm in detailing the knowledge gained, and how they could apply it during their time at HL Group, reiterated why these classes were worthy beyond just the credits. I was also pleasantly surprised by the great appreciation for the writing classes and recognition for the value of strong writing skills, a core skill we, as PR professionals, hope new talent brings along with them as they enter the workforce.

The session with our summer interns left me optimistic about how universities are developing coursework for workplace preparedness and hopeful that those interns will choose a career in communications. In order for that to happen, we must provide a rewarding and memorable experience this summer. Please consider a few of the following thoughts we often overlook: An easy way to provide a positive experience is to know your interns'? names versus referring to a collective group as "?the interns."? 

Create a varied experience by dividing their time across more than one area of the company. Assign a genuine group project and allow the group to present to the executive team. 

Ask for their feedback on your organization and about their experience.

Stay in touch. We'?ve been fortunate to have interns join us post-graduation and have realized the positive word-of-mouth effect from the group. 

Learn from your interns. The knowledge and insight they offer about the millennial generation is invaluable, and a mutually beneficial experience is a great way to jump-start creative thinking in the year ahead.

Have any other suggestions on how to maximize time with summer interns? Tweet us at @hlgrp or send us an email at summer@hlgrp.com.

Michele Cerwin is president of HL Group.

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