Updated: Jun 13, 2019
In today’s work environment, people leaders are always strapped for time. There’s not enough of it to finish all their work assignments, to manage their people effectively, or to spend an adequate amount of it directly with stakeholders.
Because this resource is so scarce, it’s only natural that managers who receive summer interns often fail to prepare a deeply meaningful experience for them. With so many responsibilities to manage, adding an intern who needs projects, on-boarding, mentoring and coaching can be seen as a burden rather than an opportunity for their own self-growth.
My message to those managers: One way for you to save time while managing your intern is to leverage your internal network and share those contacts with them. Active networking is vital to their career growth and can help them build long-term relationships with the people who they meet. It will boost their confidence and give them an opportunity to meet colleagues who they can assist. Ultimately, your goal is to provide them with a rewarding experience while having enough time to complete your deliverables, and this is an excellent way to accomplish both of them.
Every summer I take a class of four or five MBA interns. It could be a daunting responsibility with my pre-existing workload, but there are a few key actions I take that help me provide my students with the best possible experience.
The first is a pre-start survey. Before each intern arrives, I want to learn everything that they think they know about the function they’ll be working in (in my case it’s Procurement). I send them a list of questions that gives me a clear indication of just how much procurement experience they’ve had in the past or if they’re completely new to it. Where there are knowledge gaps, that’s an opportunity for me to leverage my internal network and match them with a Procurement expert who is strong in that particular area.
I also ask them what areas of Procurement they’re interested in exploring. Are they curious about sourcing Raw Materials, Chemicals, Creative Agencies, Digital Media, Facilities, Professional Services, Fleet, or Travel? Or, are they more interested in Project Management within our Contract to Pay organization? Once I have an idea of those interests, I have sufficient information to provide them with a detailed networking blueprint within the function.
I also use the survey to find out what other areas of the business they’re interested in learning more about. Are they curious about Mergers and Acquisitions, Finance, Product Supply, Marketing, Information Technology, Change Management, or Human Resources? If they are, I have colleagues they can meet with. If our goal is to attract top talent into the company, does it make sense to limit our interns to their primary function? Of course not. We want them to learn as much as they can about as many areas as possible to further their interest in becoming full time employees. If they have broad exposure to different areas and are able to connect the dots, then maybe we might just have a future leader in our midst. This is the perfect opportunity to find out.
Once I understand their interests, I start match-making. Each intern is given a networking blueprint with up to 50 people who they can choose to reach out to. This creates four specific types of opportunities. First, this gives me 50 additional free hours in which I can focus on business-critical activities and continue to help our function meet our objectives. Second, the networking activities also transform into 50 additional hours of engaged recruiting where the interns learn from best the company has to offer in hopes of attracting them into full-time roles. Each intern ultimately builds meaningful relationships with several of them, who then become mentors and champions as they further their career. Finally, it’s an opportunity for each intern to find additional project assignments that can further enhance their experience, provides relief to colleagues in need of a resource, and will ultimately improve your employer brand identity at the university the intern came from.
Creating these types of blueprints doesn’t take much time. Just a little bit of preparation can make a huge difference. With “time” being such an elusive resource for us all, how can you afford not to take a little bit of it to set your intern (and yourself) up for success?