The title of this blog was jokingly suggested to me by a colleague, but I am going to stick to it because it is important for student interns to know they are valued so much by employers and for employers to realise the benefits of having a student intern. I’ve been fortunate enough to have student interns as part of the Birmingham Undergraduate Internship Programme for two years running now and the interns that have worked for me have indeed been amazing. I know many students worry that an internship will just involve four weeks of photocopying and making cups of tea, but as an employer an intern is someone who will bring fresh perspective and enthusiasm.
Last year I had two interns join me when I was in the process of managing the rebranding of Careers Network. Aisha and David provided us with fantastic support throughout, even sitting through a 6 hour briefing meeting with the designers and making valuable contributions. This year, Caroline has conducted much needed market research on our competitors, and put together some excellent case studies as part of her project for use in university-wide campaigns.
Interns impress when they are enthusiastic and interested, it helps them do the job in hand and it makes me want to help them even more. It’s great when they have good ideas but also when they ask good questions because it shows they are getting involved in the whole process and see their project as part of the bigger picture. It is often their first experience of working in an office environment and it is important for them to feel part of the team. Taking the time to go for lunch with them on their first day (and making sure they don’t pick up my terrible habit of dining al desko rather than taking a proper break), finding out about what they are interested in and introducing them to colleagues that will widen their network, makes the experience better for them and means they integrate in the teams quickly.
Having an intern in just to do photocopying and make tea for a month is a waste of a precious resource but this can happen when the host organisation has not properly planned for them. From my experience, having a clear plan of what tasks you want them to do and what they will need to do it, makes life easier for everyone. I found it much better this year; I spoke to colleagues in my team to get an idea of their needs and broke down the project into themes (in our case was more like a series of mini-projects), and made an estimate of the timeframe the tasks would take, which I discussed with Caroline on her first day. This was useful as I had already booked leave for the final week of the internship and even more disastrously I came down with flu during the middle of the project. Fortunately as we had already discussed the work plan, she took this as an opportunity to show how well she could work independently.
Internships are a great opportunity for students to get a taste of the real world as well as develop their professional skills and confidence. For the host organisations, you get a motivated individual who can really help you with projects and offer a new perspective. Everybody wins.
Finally, I’d just like to thank all the interns who have helped me over the years… you guys truly are amazing!
Jess Holloway Swift