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  • 06.13.14

5 Guidelines For All Summer Interns

A summer internship isn’t a chance to slack off while adding a line to your resume. Here are some tips to make the most of your opportunity.

5 Guidelines For All Summer Interns
[Image via Shutterstock]

The summer is here. Graduates are racing to find their first “grown-up” jobs, while those on summer break are looking for internships they won’t hate. But setting the standards for a great hire or intern is a learning game that requires all parties to be satisfied with their experience.

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At Red Branch Media, we transition a lot of interns to full-blown employees. However, the ones who don’t make the cut often want to know why. We’ve taken these reasons and turned them into lessons that will help new entrants into the workforce please even the pickiest boss, and help leaders set strong standards that produce great candidates.

As a startup CEO, I have learned a few hiring lessons the hard way. Now, it’s time to pay it forward.

Don’t Try to Pad Your Timesheet

When you steal from the company, you steal from me. I have always believed that work done trumps time spent. I realize that salaried and hourly employees have to be dealt with differently, but I set up parameters that don’t allow for time wasted on the clock. Each worker is given a set of standard tasks assigned based on their talents. We go through each task and agree on a realistic standard of time that each should be expected to take. This way, your time sheet and your deliverables are directly comparable.

Given my personality and that of many founders, I would probably micromanage if I could. But no one has time for that. Instead, set up systems that work for your own unique departments and tasks. We use Yammer internally and fill out Evernote checklists on Monday, and then figure out percentages completed by Friday. It’s an easy and useful way to ensure that everyone knows where they’re excelling, and where they need to spend more time.

Don’t Waste My Time

Want to succeed at RBM? Take something off my plate. Forbes revealed that 60% of internships result in a job offer. With our interns begging for full-time hours, I ask them point blank what they can do in 40 hours that they can’t do in 20. For those who rise to the challenge and point out something they’d like to own, I’ll take the time to train and educate them. For those who think full-time hours means more time to get the same amount of work done, we have a conversation.

Leaders need to invest in their people, and I want to invest in the employees that are asking the right questions. If it’s something you can Google easily or look for in the company files, then don’t ask the CEO. If it’s something that can be learned from a free or cheap tutorial, take the initiative and teach yourself instead of pestering your colleagues.

Don’t Make Me Babysit You

I want to work with grown adults who don’t need me looking over their shoulder. I am often head down, earbuds in and typing feverishly. I have had many workers see this as an opportunity to check Facebook or send about 15 Snapchats. I simply take one earbud out and ask, “What are you working on right now?” If I get an “Uh…” or a “What would you like me to be working on?” you’re busted. Since 60% or less of work time is actually spent productively, I’d rather pay someone to kill it in a four-day workweek than clock overtime because they couldn’t prioritize correctly. That said, we know creativity comes in bursts, so every 90 minutes we take a 10-minute social break to just chill.

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Show Me What You’ve Got

We are all about process improvement and constantly challenging yourself. Every week the entire office gets together for a meeting at which we discuss our deliverables, failures, and successes. We go over what we improved upon, and how we could have done a better job. It’s pretty obvious who is falling behind; they don’t have anything to say. Because the meeting is companywide, and you only get to reference the stuff that got shipped, there is very little carryover from week to week. Not only do these meetings help the new hires and interns learn more about our industry, they’re a safe place to ask questions, learn new terms, and gain much needed perspective on all we’ve accomplished.

You Are a Star–Act Like One

I hire people who I know are capable of stellar work. If I hired you, then it means I have an intense belief that you are capable of being the best at what you do. When my employees are doing an incredible job, I shout it from the rooftops; when they aren’t, we go over how we can improve, and quickly. Some of our most valuable workers have found their true calling this way: moving from one department to another when it became clear they weren’t performing to their potential in a certain area. It’s not easy to tell those used to being the best and brightest that their work is subpar, but when you pair it with useful, actionable learning, they’re more likely to internalize it and improve.

Maren Hogan is a seasoned marketer and community builder in the HR and Recruiting industry. She leads Red Branch Media, an agency offering marketing strategy and content development. A consistent advocate of next generation marketing techniques, Hogan has built successful online communities, deployed brand strategies in both the B2B and B2C sectors, and been a prolific contributor of thought leadership in the global recruitment and talent space.

Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program.

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