How to Lead Interns – Play to their strengths!

student strengths

As a Social Media Consultant for Poprouser, I have had to familiarize myself with the world of Human Resources and its new incarnation: People Operations.

Our previous post dealt with removing the fear of failure and we recently tweeted Sir Richard Branson’s rules for finding a mentor. People Ops is not about finding a part for a machine. it is about finding the right person for the job.

The key to this is to play to their strengths!

Summer has begun, and many university students are looking to secure an internship to prepare them for better things to come. Depending on the internship we have all heard great stories as well as horror stories about internships. Many of the horror stories are due to the intern not feeling a part of the company. One must ask oneself:

If I am in charge of the interns, how can I make them invaluable to the company during the course of their internship?

Imagine yourself as an HR/People Ops Director. You have been presented with two interns and need to assign them to a department in the company. You want to ensure that these interns do not simply perform functions but go above and beyond to escalate the company and its vision.

Intern A

The liberal arts major who may at first seem the odd-one-out in your company. Got their degree in English and is a creative type. But how does that help if the company is not a publishing house? Surely, your firm is looking to market itself. That is where Intern A comes in. Content is a fashionable word nowadays and it is perhaps too simple a word to describe a wide-range of media that is being used by businesses for two purposes:

  • To market the company of course! But more importantly:
  • To engage with the community.

What did the English degree do for our intern? It taught him/her to communicate and to understand different perspectives. This is the perfect mindset for not only creating content but marketing it as well. Does your company have a blog or a newsletter? If not, perhaps it should!

Intern A would be given or would identify your target demographic and create and oversee content for the individuals belonging to this demographic. The content would do more than market your company; the content would create a genuine human connection between your company and the demographic. Just as fans of a celebrity can engage with the celebrity via social media, the demographic for which your company is intended must be given an opportunity to engage with the company — the cold, distance that may have existed in the past belongs just there: the past!

That is how you play to Intern A’s strengths!

Intern B

Now, Intern B is a different story. This prospective intern is a student still discovering his or her passion. Intern B has submitted his/her LinkedIn URL and résumé as a side — but has not specified the particular department that they wish to intern in. So of course, you toss this candidate aside, right?

Of course not! If their qualifications are outstanding, why throw them out just because they have not found their path as yet?

Not much work experience, but Intern B served as Director of Recruitment for a student organization; Intern B also participated in a semester-long leadership program where he/she participated in activities to develop leadership and team-building skills; Intern B is majoring in Business but has not specified a particular area (Marketing, Finance, International Business etc.)

From your interaction with Intern B you see that he/she is a people person. Intern B presented himself/herself with exuberance. At the interview, Intern B also talks about his/her volunteering experience where he/she was given the opportunity to mentor and prepare high school students entering university.

Sounds familiar? That’s because you as an HR/People Ops director has the same skills and experience as Intern B. You are looking at someone who can intern under you and learn about HR/People Ops. Intern B is passionate about following in your footsteps — he/she just does not know it and you have to take Intern B under your wings and serve as a mentor.

Whether or not your interns pursue full-time employment post their internship, the duration of the internship (no matter how long or short) is an essential aspect of their growth.

Take it upon yourself to mentor and help this budding intern so that they can transition into a leadership position with ease once they graduate and land their first job.

Raghav Suri