Why You and Your Organization Need Interns More Than THEY Need You!

Ahh interns. Those bright-eyed, digitally-connected young people who come into your workplace to learn and grow. Over the years, I’ve come to appreciate interns and believe that if you get the right ones, they often give more than they take. Here are a few examples of why you and your organization needs interns.

Old Dog, New Tricks: Sometimes organizations get stuck in doing things the same way, year after year, even though the same old way might not be working as effectively as it could. The old way can become part of the organizational culture, and sometimes it takes a sharp young intern to shake things up with a unique and fresh look at a problem, issue or process.

A case in point; our city communications team was great at using multi-media for our external audiences but, as was pointed out by someone under age 25, we were neglecting our internal audience when it came to the use of videos. We turned this around with great results (and appreciation) from our employees and had a much more well-rounded, robust internal communications program that included some fun and creative videos.

Communications 2.0: This brings me to the digital world. Who better than college students to know about all things digital? Heck, when I was in college, I was banging out reports on an IBM electric typewriter and as a young P.R. professional, I was happy as heck when Faxing came along, so I didn’t have to hand-deliver press releases. Today’s workforce has literally been online for more of their lives than I have. That is one reason I like to surround myself with those who were weened in the digital world and for whom it is second nature. Enter, the interns.

A few years ago, a creative intern suggested our city use Snapchat. She explained the disappearing nature of this social media platform and its appeal to the younger audience we were craving to reach. I resisted the urge to say no and instead, gave it a go. What the heck? She even talked me into pursuing a contest whereby we turned over the city’s Snapchat for a day to a deserving teen. This actually turned out to be a great idea that did indeed attract a younger audience, as well as being a lot of fun. Go figure.

It’s a joy to watch the lightbulb go on! Mentoring is one of my favorite aspects of the job and helping to teach young up-and-comers the ropes still gives me a lot of pleasure. In working with interns, we always try to give them a little bit of everything to see what they enjoy doing the most. With some, it’s the writing—press releases, articles, award applications, anything with the written word. For others, it’s social media. They love the creativity of creating and planning out posts for different platforms and experimenting with what works and what doesn’t. We also give them the opportunity to figure out if being in front of or behind the camera could be a career pursuit, and if public speaking floats their boat. Watching that proverbial light bulb go off when they land on the aspects of the job they love is a true joy. A big thank you to the marvelous interns I have had the pleasure of working with over the years; I learned from you too!

If you don’t have an internship program in your organization, I highly recommend you consider one. You never know what you might learn and what your organization might gain.