Managing Interns: Tips and Advice

I saw a set of questions online about how to manage and mentor marketing interns.  As I used to manage and mentor lots of consultants including interns when I worked for Deloitte, I wanted to share my 2 cents.   The questions didn’t specify whether these were high school, college, or MBA interns, so I will assume these are college interns

Q1) what are some tips and advice on motivating team members to mentor interns? what are some ways to encourage team members to foster their leadership and mentorship skills while utilizing the interns?

There are four things you can do to motivate team members to mentor/use interns

  1. Market interns as a free resource team members can use to lighten their load.  Anyone would want to get free help
  2. Each intern needs a designated team member mentor.  Allow your team members to choose their interns instead of assign them one.  This encourages the team members that volunteer first to get first picks and they get who they want.
  3. Make it mandatory for everyone if you have enough interns and add their performance as a mentor part of the team member’s performance review under Leadership Potential. This will align incentives with your goals.
  4. Provide a short training on how to best mentor / utilize interns. Provide examples of appropriate intern task.  Steps to follow to provide proper mentoring.

Q2) What are some ways to keep interns engaged and motivated in an internship program?

You can try several of the following ideas.

  • Create an Intern Event (90 min) near the end of the internship – require all team members and intern to attend. At this event, give each Intern a chance to present 5 min – what they did and what they learned.  This will provide an opportunity for Interns to present and will motivate team members to give their interns some meaning work. Maybe provide food and do it during lunch to minimize impact on work productivity.
  • Same as 4 above. Provide training to team member mentors so that they know not to just give intern only mundane work like copying and arranging meeting.
  • If times allows, have a team member be the Intern Advocate for all interns.  He or she can have meet with Interns to figure out what they hope to learn from the internship.  From that, the information can be disseminated to all team members with interns to try to incorporate.  He or she can also be a go-to person if any team member or intern is experiencing difficulty during the internship.
  • Manage Intern expectations.  A lot of their work may be mundane like filing and copying.   They are there because they are trading that work for opportunities to learn new things as well.
  • If in case you don’t have enough team members for all the interns you hired, then perhaps try an Apprentice Model. Split them into 2 or 3 teams with one team members each and have them either compete on one project or each team work on separate projects.  Either way, there needs to be a final presentation by each team.

At the end of the day, even though interns are young,  they are also smart and ambitious.  The focus is to create opportunity for them to learn something new while allowing team members to offload some of the low-level tasks to them.

Q3) What are some example 1-month marketing projects that interns could be assigned in addition to their daily tasks?

This one is kind of hard to answer.  I would delegate this to each team member who has an intern to come up with a 1 month project that an intern can work on and help support that team member’s work.  Some example can be

  • Market research work regarding a new target customer segment
  • come up with campaign copy if the target audience is the age of these interns
  • Competitive research

Hope that helps.  I am always in your corner


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