Intern Supervisor / Mentor Best Practices

Intern Orientation

This critical ‘first impression’ for both student and employer is part of any successful internship.  Right from the start interns should receive clear information about the company culture, work expectations, and their own intern responsibilities.  Ask questions to check in and be sure the intern understands the information they need to know.  Considering that most internships run only 8-12 weeks, the more effective the intern’s orientation the sooner s/he can begin accomplishing learning goals and become a productive member of your organization.   

Choosing an Intern Mentor/Supervisor

The best person for this role should be someone in your organization who enjoys working with young people, is patient, and has some teaching skills.  This person doesn’t have to be the youngest member of your staff, but someone who understands the importance and value of mentoring for the student and the organization, and enjoys helping others learn.  The mentor plays a key role in the professional development of the intern and is the primary point of contact for the intern and UNH.

Take the Time

It’s important that the intern’s mentor/supervisor has the time to work with the intern.  Consistent supervision and honest and clear feedback will help the intern fulfill your expectations and learn skills they need.  It’s best to set consistent meeting times – weekly or biweekly.  Beyond 1:1 meetings on site, if the student is working outside of your office for any part of their internship, contacting them via email or phone just to check in and let them know they can contact you with questions will send a good message to the intern and will encourage them to do so.

Real Work + Engagement = Results 

Give your intern real work and responsibility for meaningful individual projects that will contribute to your organization and help the student accomplish specific learning goals.  Each internship has its share of administrative work, but the more an intern feels like s/he is contributing through substantial hands-on projects, the more engagement and dedication they will show as they increase their skill development and learning.  According to a recent survey conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), effective internships are where most of the student's time is spent engaged in professional activities.  The top three are activities are: analysis/problem solving, project management, and communication (verbal/written with clients/staff/members). 

Share Your Knowledge

Since your intern applied to your organization, they want to learn about your company and the industry.  Introduce them to related concepts and ideas outside of their daily responsibilities and help them see the bigger picture at your company (and beyond).  Whether it’s during your weekly supervisory meeting or an informal conversation during lunch, these interactions will help expand the student’s knowledge, enhance their professional development and give them the confidence and skills they need to be successful.