I have had personable and driven interns to work for my company. You would expect the best thing about interns to be the cheap labor. However, to make the experience rewarding for both of us, there is a fair amount of effort I must expend even before they arrive.

In the movies, interns pick up dry cleaning, get coffee and deliver donuts. Small companies need interns to deliver products and services to clients from the beginning. We need “mini-me” employees. Here’s how to develop those SuperStar interns:

  1. Give them a Role – Everyone has a title; I assign interns a role. The role describes what they are to do. “Create a Magical Customer Experience (Client Success)”, “Design Error Free Code” (programmer), “Make Our Presence Known in the Community (Marketing).” The roles are fun and different than what they have had in the past. For more creativity, let the intern choose his or her own role.
  2. Give them Strategies – At the beginning of every semester or term, I gave each intern a list of ten objectives. Having an objective gives them something to work for. As a person running a marathon, each strategy represents a finish line. When both of you have agreed on that completion point, they can always keep their eyes on the prize. Examples include: Complete a social media webinar for financial advisors; Organize intern special outing; Design a Mobile Tech training for teacher.
  3. Give them Tactics – Tactics are the building blocks to complete a strategy. Most of my interns love working on them. The leadership in an organization focuses on the strategy. Assign your interns weekly tactics which are easier to measure and quantify. Similarly, they give the intern and their supervisors a feeling of accomplishment when complete. Examples include: Email 3 new schools re: mobile technology event, write weekly blog post, or repost 3 new articles daily on social marketing in finance industry.
  4. Get Them Involved – When approved by your client, prospect or partner, involve your interns in meetings. You might be surprised at the level to which they can and will contribute. I even ask my interns if they are interested in presenting material during my workshops. When they are directly involved in the success of the company, they are more likely to care about the work completed. Given the age of my interns, people are especially interested in their opinion on social media topics. Examples include: designing the promotional items (pens, shirts and mugs) for clients
  5. Give them Motivation – The book Drive (Daniel Pink) describes people’s true motivation for success (hint: it’s not money). This fact is true for standard employees and interns. Provide a fun and desirable work environment. I started by giving my interns a flexible work schedule. As long as they accomplish their weekly and daily tasks (which leads to a completed strategy), they don’t have to be at the office. We go to lunch sometimes – my treat. I expose them to interviews and mentorships from community leaders. Examples include: open co-working space, casual dress code and flexible hours.

The goal of an internship is two fold: a benefit for the company and the intern. The intern needs experiences they can put on their resume and discuss in job interviews. The company needs sales, marketing, design and production deliverables. Superstar interns are never born. Those skills are the result of hard work and commitment from the intern and planning and organization on the part of the supervisor. In the end, it pays off for both parties.

Scientifically Speaking, of course.