After you’ve successfully completed the searching and hiring process to bring an intern into your office, you might think that the work is done. However, you’re not only bringing extra help into your practice– you’re bringing in someone who may be brand new to office culture and the working side of the financial industry, and it’s your responsibility to get them on the right track. The main objective of a financial internship is to provide real work experience to the intern, with you as a seasoned financial professional able to provide an environment to learn and test new skills, apply learned theory in a real-world setting, and offer feedback and further learning opportunities. Mentorship is your end of the deal in exchange for the lower salary usually paid to interns. So, with all this said, how do you manage interns in your office to make sure that you and they reap the greatest benefits from your time together?
- Understand the Beginning: Take a trip down memory lane and remember your own first job. You didn’t know what to wear your first day, you didn’t get how the office worked, you didn’t even know if you were allowed to use the fridge. Your new intern may be more in tune with office life, but you shouldn’t expect it. Give them the guidance and grace that should come with their first professional situation. Make sure you’re clear about things like dress code, punctuality, music volume, and other things that you may not need to address with regular staff. You don’t have to be preachy, just provide the information right at the beginning so the intern knows what to expect and how to behave right away.
- Not Everything Can Be Exciting: One of the hard truths about work is that it is, in fact, work. There will definitely be tedious tasks that your intern can be assigned. As long as they’re being paid, an intern can and should be expected to handle tasks that would be a drudge to anyone in the office. Depending on the task, and understanding the nature of young people, this may be something you can assign at the end of the day, or make sure they know they can listen to music while they work on it.
- Real Projects are Paramount: That said, you can’t just set up your intern in the conference room with envelopes to stuff for weeks on end. An internship should be setting up the intern for industry experience. Schedule projects that the intern can truly be involved in, from planning through implementation and follow up. Set aside time for the intern to sit on client calls or meetings with you. Worried that your clients won’t know what to expect? A brief introduction at the beginning of the call goes a long way to letting your clients know that the new face is someone learning the ropes, just like seeing the “Student Driver” sticker on the back of a car.
- Like One of the Team: It’s not only financial knowledge your intern can learn on the job. In between the Monte Carlos and the paperwork requirements, there’s a lot to learn about office culture. It’s important to include your intern in team meetings, office birthdays or potlucks, and other parts of office life that will give them exposure to the human side of business as well. After all, being a people person is part of what has made you a successful advisor, isn’t it?
- Plenty of Feedback: While you’re not your intern’s teacher or career counselor, you have the important role of mentor during the internship. For that reason, it’s not enough for you to simply assign and delegate—you should be an active part of the learning process. Feedback is something that university students are used to and need to learn and improve. Be part of that process by letting them know how they’re doing, what they’re acing and what could use some work. This doesn’t mean you should pick apart their performance. Just let them know where they stand and remember to come at everything from a place of constructive criticism meant to build them up rather than tear them down.
- Beyond the Internship: All good things must come to an end, and the internship will eventually run its course. There are several options when that time comes, from considering your graduating intern as a new hire to being a reference as they continue on to the next opportunity. In all cases, honesty is important. References are vital to fresh graduates, so be upfront about the type of reference you’ll be. If you can’t honestly be a good reference, be sure the intern knows so they don’t include you on resumes. But if you’ll be providing a glowing recommendation, be sure to communicate that as well.
Overall, every internship is different, and every intern is unique. But having some idea of what you’re able to provide to your intern in terms of experience and exposure as well as guidance will make it easier for everyone to adjust. Don’t be afraid to let yourself be on the learning side of the equation either! Your intern may be a source of inspiration, new knowledge, or fresh eyes in an area that you’ve been stuck in for a while. An open exchange of ideas may benefit you too!