Bryce: Those Pesky Interns

Tim Bryce; Managing interns can be like herding cats

Becoming an intern in corporate America is a privilege, be it big business or small.  The thinking here is that if the person does well, they may be offered a job with the firm.  Being a newbie though can be challenging.  As much as the young person wishes to become involved in major projects, the reality is the intern is there to observe and learn.  In all likelihood, the intern will get just about every dirty job imaginable, particularly “go-for” work (where you are charged with going to get something, like a cup of coffee).
Recently, I’ve been hearing about interns who are irritating their managers.  For starters, the dress of the young people is far from professional.  Their perception of what is considered professional is far from that of the manager’s.  I often hear people complain how young women wear their skirts too tight, or look too trashy.  There also seems to be a tendency to wear excessive makeup.  In this matter, I tend to blame the company as opposed to the intern.  The manager should take the time to mentor the young person and advise them of what is proper and what is not.  Obviously, the parents of the intern dropped the ball on this one.

Years ago, I was forced to mentor a young female intern over her dress.  Unfortunately, I caused her to cry regardless of how diplomatic I tried to be.  This leads me to believe men should advise men, and women should advise women on such matters.

The intern’s social skills should also be scrutinized closely, particularly their speech.  If you have an office setting where customers visit, a word spoken out of turn could certainly lose a sale.  Again, the company should be responsible for teaching interns how to make an introduction, shake a hand, where and how to stand and sit, particularly in meetings.  The intern’s use of social media and communication devices should also be reviewed.  Avant-garde pictures and text should be discouraged as even the intern is representative of a business.

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Perhaps what is most important is the intern should know his/her place.  Young people often suffer from impetuous exuberance and are eager to demonstrate their abilities.  Unfortunately, interns are at the bottom of the tomtem pole, maybe even below it, and as such, they should be cautious in their choice of words.  For example, it is not wise to correct a senior manager, or anyone who has been with the company for a few years.  You may very well be correct in your thought, but if you are not diplomatic in your use of words your tenure will be brief.

The intern’s roll in any company is to learn the business, put their best foot forward and demonstrate their willingness to learn and adapt to the corporate culture.  Again, this is a golden opportunity for the young person.  So do not blow it by sticking your foot in your mouth or looking like an adolescent dweeb.  Use your head, tackle assignments with enthusiasm, and learn.

Keep the Faith!