Interns are encouraged to ask questions, apply their knowledge, and immerse themselves in the operations of a workplace. Supervisors play a significant role in the intern experience by facilitating their integration, engagement, and progress within a team.

However, being tasked with mentoring an intern can sometimes pose a daunting challenge. Not only are you responsible for your own performance but you are also in charge of investing in the success and growth of an aspiring professional.

Many people are under the false impression that internships are solely based on a student-teacher dynamic in which the supervisor teaches, and the intern just listens. This belief has the potential of resulting in a restricting internship experience where an exchange of thought-provoking ideas and values are hindered.

The true value of an internship exists in opportunities for growth between interns and supervisors. How do you lay the foundations for an impactful and fulfilling internship? Here are some tips for supervisors about building rapport, thinking strategically, and maximising impact through thoughtful communication.

Tip #1: Coffee Chats

At the start of the internship, take time to sit down with your intern and have a casual conversation. Use this time to learn about their background and interests. Listen carefully and find out what matters to them. Sometimes a simple conversation can make all the difference both personally and professionally. Remember to be genuine and don’t be afraid to share your story as well!

Tip #2: Honest Evaluations

Challenge your intern by asking them to evaluate their current skillset and goals. Encourage them to be honest with themselves as they elaborate on their strengths, areas for improvement, and goals for their internship. Ask them to write everything down and to discuss their reflections. This document can serve as a point of reference for the both of you throughout the internship. Lastly, schedule brief weekly or bi-weekly meetings to check in and provide feedback.

Tip #3: Growth Mindset

Show your intern that you are also dedicated to personal development by asking for honest feedback. By keeping a growth mindset at the core of your mentorship style, you will inspire your intern and motivate them to advance their work ethic. Don’t be afraid to share information about your past work experiences or lessons you have learned through trial and error!

Tip #4: Think Forward

As your intern’s exit approaches, schedule some time to conduct a final review of their honest evaluation. Ask them about what they learned, what was most challenging, and any advice they may have for future interns in their position. Most important, 'think forward' by imparting advice that will serve them as they continue developing their personal and professional self.

These are just a few avenues for thoughtfully curating an intern’s experience. Although this approach takes more time and effort, there is a great deal of fulfilment that comes from maximising one another’s growth potential through mentorship.

Marissa Kamisugi is an account management intern at ad agency RPA.

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