Yesterday I was a guest speaker at a Business Acumen workshop, hosted by TomoTherapy and run by Bioforward. The topic was Social Media and Your Business and I think, all-in-all, it went pretty well. That is, if you don’t count a few of my jokes falling flat. (Really, they are very funny in my head!)
But this post isn’t about my talk. It’s about interns. I invited my marketing intern, Megan, to come to the talk and I introduced her to the group. Off the top of my head, and without even thinking, I said, “I’m introducing Megan but will be putting her in the Intern Protection Program, so keep your paws off her.” I say this because Megan is good, very good. She’s smart. She’s fun and she’s adaptable. She is a go-getter and approaches every task with enthusiasm and professionalism. If more people worked like her, wars could be averted, rainbows would fill the sky and rain would come down in the form of donuts and Oreos.
Now, to pat myself on the back, how is it that Megan, or any intern, can flourish as a young person and reach their potential in an office? The answer is, that YOU (the employer/mentor/whatever) must provide an environment in which they can learn, grow and experience all sides of business. YOU must not use them for filing your papers, grabbing your coffee or doing other things that you’re generally too lazy to do yourself. YOU are obligated to provide a hands-on learning environment that builds skills and more importantly, confidence.
I asked the interns something that no one ever asked me, “What do you love to do? What do you want to learn this summer?” Ryan said that he loves film narrative. I replied, “Great! I have a video camera and a few ideas. Now this is your project. Take this and run with it.” He seemed genuinely excited about this opportunity and I’m pleased to give him the opportunity to build his resume.
With Megan, I’ve been asking her to sit in on interviews, listen to phone calls and participate in client meetings. I don’t “shush her” or demand that she be an anonymous blob in the corner. She has ideas. She has a voice. I’m treating her the way I want to be treated and wish I had been treated in the beginning of my career.
To me, this seems like a no-brainer, but I still hear about bad internships, bad bosses, bad employees, etc. Is it really that hard to treat people with respect? Will the world come to an end if you let people try? Are you worried they might fail? Or are you really worried that they might succeed and….gasp!…be even more successful than you?
I’d welcome your thoughts and comments or questions. Just don’t ask me Megan’s last name. She’s mine. All mine. At least until she goes back to school. 🙂
Note to Megan if she reads this. This post makes me seem really creepy and stalk-tastic. I hope you will still show up to work on Monday. If you don’t, I will find you. (insert evil laugh here)