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Getting the most out of an intern: Five ways

There’s no doubt that internships are important for students, giving them the vital skills needed to survive in an environment outside of university. But internships can also be beneficial for businesses taking on students.

While some managers or employees may dread the arrival of a new intern in the office, see it as a positive instead and think about what you, and the business, can gain from the experience.

1. Fresh ideas

This is a new person coming in to a business, looking from the outside in. For most of us it can be hard to step-back and see a business and its processes from a fresh angle because normally we are entrenched in the day to day activities, culture and politics of the organisation.

Interns are usually near the end of their studies and are currently receiving the latest education in their field, take the time to listen to what they have to say, you never know what ideas they may have for you to make your job easier or your business better.

2. Energy

If a student has actively pursued an internship, it is usually because they want to do an internship at your business. Harness their energy and enthusiasm into the right channels; get them working on projects that need a boost of energy.

3. Dirty work

Sending them out for coffee runs four-times a day isn’t really giving them learning opportunities, but you can get interns to do those little tasks that no one has time to do, if it is in line with their future career. They will be happy for the experience and you won’t have to worry about fitting that one extra task into your already busy day.

This could be getting them to follow-up RSVPs to an event or doing office stock take, they have learnt a new skill and you can tick one more thing off your to-do list.

4. Taking the time

A common complaint about taking on interns is that they take time away from the job you are being paid to do. To combat this, set-up an internship program with a dedicated management resource to ensure the process works smoothly.

Even a SME can spend time coming up with guidelines and expectations to make the process easy for all. Interns can lighten your load and be a help, not a hindrance when it comes to completing all of your tasks. They can take time away from your day, but if you invest the time wisely, you will both gain from it. 

5. Recruitment

Many interns from Macquarie University go on to work at the place where they interned. Recruitment costs can be high and with interns, most of the work is already done.

You have seen how they perform and how they interact with you and other employees and whether or not they fit into the culture of your organisation. No matter how many times you interview someone for a job; it can’t give you the valuable insight into a person that having them as an intern can.

You may not even be looking to hire someone right there, but who knows what will happen down the track and already having those recruitment leads in place can put you one-step ahead in finding the right person for your business.

All most interns are looking for is a chance to get some experience to put on their resumes. Do you remember how tough or nerve-wracking it was applying for your first job out of university? Giving someone a chance could give them the leg-up they need in their career, and could help you out along the way as well.

Macquarie University has introduced Participation and Community Engagement (PACE) units which connects students with partner organisations, similar to an internship. Participation units provide an academic framework through which students can engage with the community, learn through participation, develop their capabilities and build on the skills that employers value. By completing a participation unit, students develop all these skills and capabilities, and also gain academic credit towards their degree.