By Sarvesh Agrawal, Founder & CEO, Internshala
Headquartered in Gurgaon, Internshala provides the largest and free access to the talent pool of India for the internship requirements. Proffering unmatched experience to the recruiters, employers and organizations, the entity is known for its process management.
The best way to learn is to do. And an internship gives you an opportunity to do exactly that. And not just to the interns, but also to the managers who mentor these young, fresh, full of ideas, and ready to take on the world individuals. How an internship helps an intern is well understood. What is perhaps less known or discussed is how it also allows us to become better managers and eventually, better human beings. In my 5 years of running Internshala and interacting with hundreds of fellow entrepreneurs who have built their teams and businesses with help of interns; here is what I have learned about how interns help us become better managers and entrepreneurs:
1. You learn not to be afraid – Let’s admit, our upbringing of 80s as well as years of experience have made us conservative and a little less open to risks. We think of consequences before possibilities and may discard a new idea just because it seems outrageous. Interns, the millennials, don’t have any such baggage to carry. They are not afraid to try new things, take on the global competition and most of them actually enjoy it to venture into unknown.
As a supportive mentor, you have no choice but to accompany them in their journey of ‘let me try this’ and are often pleasantly surprised by the results. The experience teaches you to be young again.
2. You learn patience – An intern, by definition, know little and needs to be taught everything from scratch which requires you to be a great teacher. And being a great teacher is nothing but practicing the art of patience.
While this may seem a waste of your time at first, but think of all the situations in your professional life till date which required you to be patient with a colleague who would not cooperate, a client who would not respond, or situation with-in the team which required to be dealt with calmness. Patience is a great virtue to have in one’s life and mentoring interns teaches you plenty of that.
3. You learn the art of people management – Especially, if you are a young professional with no prior experience of building and leading teams. Mentoring interns can teach you a great deal about how to divide work, set up timelines, manage conflicts, and everything else that is expected from a great manager.
Think of managing interns as an internship for yourself in how to become a great leader and people manager.
4. You learn new skills - The world is rapidly changing and so is every aspect of our work life. If you are a marketing person, you need to learn about a new social media platform, if you are a finance person, you need to pick up new SaaS based accounting software, and if you are a programmer, a new technology gets unleashed every day. One way to learn all this is to keep attending different training programs. A better way would be to surround yourself with younger generation and allow them to teach it to you while they learn from your experience. It’s a win-win situation for everyone.
Now, that you are all excited and want to hire a few interns for your team and venture; let’s look at what it takes to run a great internship program.
1. Test them thoroughly before hiring – Just because you are hiring interns and not employees, doesn’t mean your hiring process should be any less stringent. Test them not just on technical skills but also cultural fit. While skills can be taught, values cannot. Hence, do not compromise on that.
2. Define clear tasks and roles – Many make the mistake of hiring interns without having a clear idea of what interns would do once they are onboard. This leads to frustration for the new hires as well as is a waste of opportunity for you too. The role and project of an intern should be defined before you set out to hire one.
3. Set right expectations – For most interns, this would be their first ever professional experience and hence, do not assume that they know how things work. At the start of the internship, have a clear discussion on what is expected from them work wise as well as how they should conduct themselves at workplace. Hold them responsible for their actions.
4. Provide regular feedback –The primary objective of the internship is to learn and your feedback will go a long way in ensuring a great learning outcome for the student. Timely feedback would also make the intern more productive which would save you time and money.
5. Make them feel part of the vision – Just because they are interns, does not mean they cannot contribute to the broader discussion on company’s goals and strategies. Invite them to ideate, tell them about your vision to change the world, give them meaningful work and at the same time teach them about dignity of labor, you will be surprised at wonders it can do for you.
Hope this makes you think of interns from a new perspective and how they can contribute to your learning and development. In many ways it is like parenthood, you learn something new every day.