One summer my friend complained to me constantly about how she had to supervise a summer intern. To her, it was a babysitting job that required time and attention away from her real job. She was frustrated that supervising a summer intern had caused her to put in extra hours and lose focus.
On the face of it, supervising a summer intern doesn’t sound like the role most people view as desirable or interesting. For the intern, it is hugely important. People with internship experiences report having higher rates of employment and higher starting salaries, according to CNBC.
With some perspective though, managing a summer intern can be a huge career booster and an opportunity to make yourself more relevant.
Whether you are assigned or volunteer, working with an summer intern has benefits.
You gain insight. Millennials think differently, use technology differently and communicate differently. By interacting with a young millennial in a work setting, and answering his questions or concerns, you may begin to see your job from another perspective and bring fresh thinking to how a task has always been done. Before your intern sets foot in the door, set goals so you both can use your time well.
You gain management experience. It may feel like babysitting, but managing a summer intern is résumé material. It shows you can supervise others and provide direction. When an intern performs well, it reflects on your ability to be a leader. When you review assignments, encourage your intern to give feedback and ask questions, which will help you develop your skills as a manager.
You pick up tech tricks. Technology is second nature to millennials who grew up with smartphones and gaming systems. Give them a tech device and most know how to use it instantly, and often better than you. By watching how they use their phones, work on their laptops and interact with company software, you are almost guaranteed to learn how to use the tools you own or work with in new ways.
You have another set of hands. Are there projects you want to get to but don’t have time? Tasks to be done that will make your job easier in the long term? Emails to send to drum up new business? Interns are your eager helpers. The key is to show a summer intern how he or she contributes to the organization through a task, which is big motivation for a millennial. As Betsy Aimee of The Muse notes, “Beyond the benefit of having some help for your job, finding substantive tasks for your intern to take on provides you a great opportunity to learn how to delegate.”
You become more relatable. Having a career for the unforeseeable future means working with people who are younger. Supervising a summer intern is an opportunity to do that in a non-threatening way. Consider taking your intern to lunch or coffee to discover his interests and pave the way for you to become someone he feels comfortable around. In the ideal arrangement, you become someone your intern can learn from, but you also become a great boss.
When you spend time around a young person with fresh ideas, big goals, and a can-do attitude, it rubs off. At the end of the summer, the experience should be a net positive for your intern — and for you, too.