What are your top tips for managing summer interns at a small business?

To help you best manage summer interns at your small business, we asked business wonders and people managers this question for their best pieces of advice. From letting them lead to clarifying intent, there are several tips that may help you best manage and utilize summer interns. 

Here are 11 tips for managing summer interns:

  • Let Them Lead
  • Give Them Meaningful Work to Do
  • Find that Balance of Fun and Real Work
  • Offer Flexible Hours
  • Set Clear Workload Expectations 
  • Assign a Mentor
  • Spend 15% of Your Time with Them
  • Break Down Tasks
  • Ask Your Interns What Their Goals are
  • Have Regular Check-ins
  • Clarify Intern Intent


Managing Summer Interns: 11 Tips From Small Business


Let Them Lead

As a business leader, your primary focus is on executing the vision and driving results. You are always looking for opportunities to delegate so you can focus on the big picture. This is a perfect opportunity to do just that by allowing interns to take the lead on specific projects or tasks. Not only will this free up your time, but it will also give interns a sense of ownership and responsibility. They will be able to see firsthand how their work impacts the company and its bottom line.

Demi Yilmaz, Colonist.io


Give Them Meaningful Work to Do

I would say the most important thing is to give them meaningful work to do. It can be tempting to just have them do busy work or run errands, but that’s not going to give them a good experience or help your business.

Try to think of tasks that will help further their skills and also be beneficial to your company. It’s also important to give them feedback and check-in with how they are doing regularly. You want them to feel like they are part of the team and not just an afterthought. Finally, make sure you take advantage of their fresh perspective! They can offer new insights and ideas that you may not have thought of before.

Ilija Sekulov, Mailbutler


Find that Balance of Fun and Real Work

Managing summer interns can be a tricky business. If you work them too hard and run an austere internship program, there’s no chance you’ll get them to come back—assuming that’s your goal. Most of these kids are still in school and not used to the rigors of real work. Thus, you need to make the internship fun and interesting to capture their attention and provide a positive experience. 

However, it can’t be all happy hours, company outings, and free lunches. You also need to provide them with real work, so they can get a flavor for what it’s like to work in a true business environment. Thus, it’s finding that balance between work and play that is difficult. My personal suggestion is to treat them like any other employee in terms of providing them real work, but layer in additional coaching and fun activities. As a manager, interact with them as much as possible to provide a social experience, but make sure they’re learning and getting a good view of your company’s true operations.

John Ross, Test Prep Insight


Offer Flexible Hours

They’re interns and not full-time employees. Interns want money but they love freedom. If you are working from home, offering flexible hours helps you land talented interns in your company. Everyone’s work schedule is different, and by offering flexible work schedules, you’re assisting them in finding their own timings. 

They can work when they feel the most productive. This helps them and you bring results and grow the company. Also, interns are more attracted to companies that offer flexible working hours rather than fixed timings. In case you find great talent, flexible timings will help you maintain associations with them even after their summer break is over. Since they can handle both study and work due to flexible timings, they’ll be happy to work with you.

Isaac Robertson, Total Shape


Set Clear Workload Expectations 

Communicate your expectations regarding workload, working hours, and break times. What tasks do you need help with? What projects can they work on? Then, provide clear instructions and guidelines for each task or project. If possible, hand them a list of resources they can use to complete their work. Most importantly, make yourself available to answer any questions they may have along the way. You are their best resource!

Accordingly, ensure your interns understand your company’s policies on confidential information and social media use. Setting clear expectations from the beginning will help with avoiding any misunderstandings or confusion down the road.

Chris Lewandowski, Princess Dental Staffing


Assign a Mentor

Assign the intern a mentor within the company who is not their immediate supervisor. This will give them an opportunity to network across different departments and challenge themselves to work with different personality types and age groups. This mentor can function as a benign confidant for the intern to express hardships, concerns or potential optimization ideas for workflow.

Anamika Goyal, Cottage


Spend 15% of Your Time with Them

As small business owners, we’re busy, but making it a priority to train students can feel like an extra thing to do on an already long to-do list. But spending 15% of your time upfront to train them is worth it when you see how much they can take off your plate.

I’m working with a group of students this summer. My advice is to make sure they have enough information to complete their first few tasks. That includes giving them access to websites, photos or social accounts. I also give them documents about objectives and guides. 

I try to spend 15% of my time with them when they first get started, for training and questions. This ensures they’re set up for success. After being available for 15% of your time you can then start to cut back, and they’ll be on track to completing your first task successfully. You might not even need to give that much of your time to them. You’ll be surprised with how little of your time they take up.

Michelle Beauregard, Quietly


Break Down Tasks

Summer interns can be extremely beneficial for a small business, but giving them too much responsibility or expecting them to understand how to do things instantly can cause more harm than good. 

The best tip for managing summer interns at a small business is to break down tasks into smaller tasks that can help them understand how to effectively do jobs, and put their mind at ease. It also allows you to make sure that every step of the way is done correctly, to teach the intern necessary skills and help keep things organized, which benefits the business in the process.

Nicole Thelin, Low Income Relief


Ask Your Interns What Their Goals are

Although you may already have a good idea of what tasks or duties you want your interns to cover during their time with you, it’s important to also ask them what their own goals or aims are during their internship. Not only does this demonstrate that you care about the value they’re getting from their time in the organization, but it can also inform the roles and responsibilities you allocate to them, to ensure a good fit.

Taking the time to do this means your interns are likely to be happier, more productive and speak more highly of your organization.

Saadia Hussain, Pearl Scan


Have Regular Check-ins

Be sure to have regular check-ins with interns. This could be on a weekly basis or first thing in the morning to discuss tasks for the day. It’s important to use this opportunity as a teaching moment, as well as a time to discuss projects they may be working on. They’re there to learn and help the company as much as they can, so it’s essential that both parties are working together.

Christy Pyrz, Paradigm Peptides


Clarify Intern Intent

My top tip for managing summer interns is to have clear guidance and achievable goals that the intern will learn from. Whether moving between departments to learn an array of skills or focus on one area, come up with a plan that both helps the organization and helps the intern.

I think it can be really useful to organize a call with the intern beforehand to ask what specific things they are hoping to learn or develop in, while also explaining some of the basic-level tasks that will be required of them as part of the role. This can ensure that the intern knows what to expect, isn’t disappointed and is getting a really satisfying outcome, while making sure your business is also getting what it needs in terms of that worker.

Phil Scully, Freelance



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