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The Intern Perspective: Creating & Contributing To A Strong Intern Development Culture

Sydney Mukes, Leadership Development Intern at Success Labs

As I wrap up my graduate studies at the LSU School of Leadership and Human Resource Development, I have been reflecting on what I’ve learned about talent development both in an academic context, and through my experience as an intern at Success Labs. Working with this company has given me a unique perspective on how development culture works at all levels, not just for senior teams. If you are really serious about supporting emerging talent and being an organization that invests in your people, think about how those values are being reflected in your internship program.

The ideal internship is a two-way street – just like with your full-time reports. In a strong work culture, both the employee and employer benefit in tangible and intangible ways from the working relationship. The same goes for interns! You are developing the next-generation workforce. A high-quality intern culture at your organization will yield benefits when it comes to recruitment and retention, and ensure that that a strong bench of young professionals are choosing you to train and launch their careers.

And if you are an emerging professional looking for internships, keep in mind that this is more than a learning experience – you are establishing patterns and a network for your career! Approach it from the perspective of adding value to your team and organization, while learning through the process.

As an intern looking forward to launching my own career in the leadership and organizational consulting space, I’d like to share some advice on how supervisors and interns can work well together, and ultimately get high-level returns from the experience.

Clearly set out expectations

Starting with the internship application, fully communicate the roles and responsibilities of the position. As candidates progress, treat them like you would any potential employee – let them meet the team and get a feel for the culture.

If you are applying for an internship, think about how you’re aligning your goals with that of the company. I recommend asking about standards for success early on, to gain clarity on whether you are a good fit for the position and learn where you can add value. Just like with any working relationship, it’s important that the internship is a good fit for everyone.

Interns: Don’t neglect time management   

Communication about your schedule is key. While working with Success Labs, I have managed a full Master’s course load, a TA position, and led volleyball trainings. Communicating honestly about when I was available let my team create a schedule that worked for all of us.

Your supervisor and teammates will probably be more flexible than you expect around your other obligations – if you are a student, they know you’re juggling a lot. But they can’t help you if you don’t communicate.

Another key aspect of time management is making sure project deadlines are clear and you are able to complete tasks in time. Always ask about deadlines early on, and be comfortable with asking for help if you are unfamiliar with certain tasks that end up taking longer than you expect!

Communication clears confusion

If you are a supervisor, it’s a good practice to implement regular check-ins to discuss any outstanding issues, raise questions, and generally ensure that the expectations laid out in the beginning are being met. Don’t be afraid to over-communicate your standards – you will help out your intern a lot if, when you are delegating a task, you make sure to fully explain the task, the parameters, the method, and the expectations. Your intern is learning from you how to communicate well in the workplace!

To all interns: DON’T BE AFRAID TO ASK QUESTIONS! No one expects you to know everything. Asking questions shares your thought process with your supervisor and helps them keep you on the right path. It also builds rapport with your team. Through asking my teammates questions I quickly become comfortable working with them because I was engaging in critical conversations that allowed me to learn from their past experiences.

Always remember: It’s better to ask a question in the moment than wait, perform the task incorrectly, and have to go back and re-do your work.

Feedback is crucial for development

Interns, don’t take feedback personally. This is a learning experience, and it’s an opportunity to grow.

Supervisors, don’t be afraid to give constructive feedback at any time – but especially after a project or task is completed. I always appreciated feedback that was task-focused, such as how I could adjust my methods or behaviors to improve performance on a specific project. This helps the feedback stick, because it isn’t vague and is tied to real outcomes.

Ready to launch: How to support your intern

Your intern will be forever grateful for your advice, support, and reference letters. More than anything else, being understanding and helpful as your intern transitions to the next phase of their career will solidify the relationship and make a lasting impression. Offer connections with your network, lunch meetings, or just solidarity. Transitioning in today’s job market can be tough, but if you’ve laid a strong foundation, your intern (and their future employers) will reap the rewards for a long time to come… and maybe they will even end up being a future leader in your organization!

Sydney is a Master’s student and Graduate Assistant in Leadership Human Resource Development at LSU, and a former Division I student athlete in Volleyball. She is currently working as Success Labs’ Leadership Development Intern.

Success Labs is a leadership development and management consulting firm in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. For more than 25 years, our expert team of consultants has worked with hundreds of companies to grow leaders, build teams and drive results through great people strategy. Contact us to get proactive about expanding your company’s potential, and stay up-to-date with our latest news and leadership development updates here.

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