She Said, She Said: Intern and Employer Thoughts About an Internship

Spring is prime time for hiring summer interns.

If you’re in business, you’ve most likely considered hiring an intern. Maybe you’ve dreamed of having one or more interns take care of all the crummy stuff you hate to do. Or there are projects you could take on if you just had a little more help. Best of all, sometimes interns work for free — for the experience, or, more typically, for college credit.

I’ve hired several interns over the years, including one for last summer. My P.R. company was getting more writing work, plus the summer is always really busy as we pitch Holiday Gift Guide clients, so I knew we needed the help.

The process of hiring Erin (my intern) was interesting. You can read why I hired her, in my blog post about it.

At the end of her internship, I asked her for feedback. I shared mine as well. Here are some thoughts you might want to consider if you hire interns:

Give Them Feedback

Margie: One of my mottos in life is, “No one ever gets too much praise or thanks.” I guess you can overdo it, but so far I’ve never been called on it. Saying nice things makes me feel good, too! I gave a lot of praise and thanks to Erin, and she deserved it! That said, I offered constructive criticism as well. Erin took it well, in the spirit of learning.

Erin: I always felt appreciated for my work. It’s hard to feel motivated to do your job well when you don’t feel appreciated or that you’re needed. I also got feedback on my work, including what areas I needed to focus on/be aware of, writing tips, what was done right/what needs to be fixed. At one of my past internships, I would write something and they would tell me that it’s great and then change a lot of things without telling me, to the point where it didn’t even sound like I wrote it.

Show Them the Money

Margie: I believe in paying people for work. I’ve always paid interns. They are more invested in their activities and work harder. Erin often worked before or after her paid hours to complete tasks.

Erin: I was willing to work for free, for the experience. But I was happy to get paid, too!

Pass on Stupid Activities  

Margie: If you hire a great intern, please don’t waste his, her or your time and money on low-level activities.

Erin: In previous internships, I was a coffee girl and sent to make a bunch of photocopies and scans. At ZFPR I was never given “busy work” — an irrelevant assignment that doesn’t help me or the company that is just given out to keep me busy.

Focus on the Best Skills

Margie: I gave Erin a wide range of assignments. In some, she was just okay, and in certain areas she shined. Just as any coach would tell you to focus on your strengths, I shifted the majority of Erin’s work to those activities where she would utilize her strongest skills.

Erin: I got to do a bunch of writing, which I love. This has significantly increased my portfolio and has made me research and learn about a lot of topics I didn’t previously know much about.

Assign Technological Tasks

Margie: Each generation is more technologically savvy than the one before. Today’s college students and any other students (including my teenage daughter) can put up an Instagram story, create a video, or text faster than me. And they usually love doing it! Even when they’ve never done something before, they usually pick it up quickly.

Erin: I got to play around with Canva (a free graphic design site), which was fun. I also made Instagram stories for the first time.

Make the Next Experience Better

While your time together may have gone well, we can always improve. Asking your interns for positive feedback and constructive criticism is helpful. Here are some of Erin’s comments:

  • Since a lot of my assignments were writing based or individual assignments, I felt like I didn’t get a holistic view of how P.R. strategies and campaigns are implemented for clients.
  • I would often do research for one client one day and then move onto another assignment the next day, which I liked, but knowing what phase clients were in throughout the internship could have been helpful to get a better idea of how the process works. Was the research/information I found useful and relevant or did the client take a totally different direction/strategy?
  • I probably should have gotten out of my comfort zone more and thought up/asked to do different kinds of assignments like writing pitches, creating more social media content, learning different programs etc.
  • On that note, I probably should have created a list of goals of things I wanted to learn/assignments I wanted to do at the beginning of the internship and then reviewed them with you.
  • On the days where I was just writing, I felt like I could’ve just worked from home, that way if I was in the middle of writing I could have just continued what I was doing past five instead of having to stop mid-thought.

Erin’s feedback will help me create a better experience for my next intern. I hope the information shared from both of us helps you with your intern hiring activities.