August 20, 2006

Win-Win Mentoring

Normally when I'm on a project I work with the owner, senior manager or sales executive(s) of my client. On a recent inuitiatve I was asked to mentor a summer intern in addition to heavy tasks and deliverables. I said yes and am glad I did since I learned a lot.

An intern, or coop is a student, typically in a business or technology academic program that includes cumpulsory work terms at a company in order to earn the degree. The person could also be in a conventional educational program and seeking more meaningful experience during school breaks.

In my opinion including an intern on your team can be great value to both the organization and the intern. For example the individual can bring in new skills, concepts or ideas that wouldn't normally be exposed to a business. The intern if rehired for additional terms knows the job, culture on day 1.

If done right an intern can become an excellent full time employee. I've had interns go on to become Directors and VP's thanks to what they gained during work terms.

Here are some ideas that will help ensure maximum productivity and results when you have an intern/coop in your company:

1. Set realistic, value creating objectives for the work to be done within the work term. Make them project based. Resist the temptation to have them do just photocopies. For example - create an internal website to provide info and track competitors instead of collecting brochures into a paper file.

2. Invest the first 2 days to familiarize the intern with how to write an email, use resources, etc... Your intern may not know the business fundamentals we all take for granted.

3. When working with an experienced member of the team you will be able to get away with a biweekly or monthly "one on one". With an intern you will need to have a daily (or every 2 days) update conversation. Nothing special here just a checkpoint - what's doing?, any questions or issues? This is a 10 minute talk tops.

These 3 steps should go a long way to ensure great results.

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