Interns can–and should–add value to an organization. It’s up to the employers to use them correctly.
How do you get the most out of your intern while providing a professional learning experience? We break down the best ways to maximize intern potential to add value to your organization.
Take Advantage of the Talent Pool
Interns should do so much more than pick up coffee or perform menial tasks for higher-ups. They bring a young, fresh perspective to an environment that can be bogged down by client-focused projects. With a bit of refinement, we can help interns transform those fantastic ideas into something truly impressive.
Employers can certainly benefit from an intern’s ingenuity, and in return they should introduce students to the reality of corporate life. Internships help students transition from academia to the work force, completing real projects for actual clients in a guided, safe space.
Hire for Employment, Not Ease
Interns should be hired with the future of the company in mind. By filling a vacant niche, the internship benefits both your organization and the career of young professionals. As Dario Tadic, Creative Director at WDG, explains, “The internship doesn’t just add to their resume. It allows them to add to our expertise.”
Tap into local university programs to find hidden talent. Our current design intern, Zachary, notes that his university “believes having tangible experiences with high stakes results will give you a better sense of the real world.” Interns also bring technical expertise and can integrate the latest technologies and social media connections into the organization.
At WDG, we continually foster the growth of our organization by looking for interns that can eventually be moved into full time positions. Zachary was hired for his impressive animation skills to create a professional-quality video reel for our website, and we helped foster his web design skills in return.
Look for Versatility
Talent should be the baseline indicator of an intern’s potential. For Zachary, our designers evaluated his work based on ability, level of creativity, and the detail of his portfolio. More specific skills such as typography, judicious treatment of designs, and broad spectrum of ability were also key.
Abstract skills like versatility and work ethic are equally valuable. Taking initiative shows investment in the company. Zachary advises his peers to “Reach out to ask about an internship, even if it’s not specifically advertised. Make sure to stress your passion for and knowledge of that company. Do your research!”
Prioritize Your Process
How do you best organize projects to benefit your intern without distracting from work flow? The client should always come first, so internal initiatives suffer at times. An intern is the perfect solution to help maintain momentum with internal branding and self-promotion.
The internship offers a safe space for young professionals to get their feet wet without external pressure. Interns are capable of handling independent work, so micromanaging is not usually a valuable strategy. Instead, create checkpoints for project production timelines. This will allow them to utilize their niche skillset while receiving needed guidance in a manageable manner.
During his time at WDG this winter, Zachary designed the landing page for WDG’s nonprofit initiative, GiveBack DC. He also designed other projects in conjunction with our creative director, and shadowed our design team with duplicate products to be later integrated into the final project. He notes that “this semi-independent process simulates a ‘real job’ perfectly by allowing you to have your own creative input in the process, rather than just pushing buttons.”
Invest in Communities
Interns can offer organizations access to valuable communities they may not otherwise reach. As students or budding professionals, interns are connected to other young talent with valuable intersections between fields. “Interns are your biggest and most affordable mouthpiece as far as representing your company and brand to their respective community,” adds our Senior Designer, Kristina Lakeway.
At WDG, two of our designers came from local universities. They regularly help host events connecting WDG to their alma mater and other young designers, such as AIGA NOVA and AIGA GMU. These efforts have created a continuous pipeline of raw talent for WDG’s future growth.
Equally important, your organization should foster employee talent in new ways. For example, Kristina was hired as an intern for her illustration ability, which branched out into photography, social media, marketing, internal branding, and other valuable avenues once she was brought on full time for our design team.
By using interns to their full potential, organizations intrinsically add to their own value. With clear pathways to valuable talent communities and fresh perspectives, interns are often a hidden resource for organizations to continue growing as leaders in their field.