Wunderkind: Integrating the intern

Interns are great. For little to no pay, they carry out your every wish, and in return, they get valuable experience. But too often, interns end up wasting their time doing menial tasks, or draining company productivity because they need close supervision. For tips on properly integrating an intern, we spoke to 30-year-old Jennifer Sloat. She handles the internship program at Toronto-based children’s TV producer Marble Media, which is renowned in the TV industry for developing young talent.

Plan ahead. Interns are not just free labour; they require energy, time and resources. “Ask yourself if you really need an intern,” says Sloat. “Do you have enough independent work for them to do?” If so, develop a job description that lays out all of the intern’s responsibilities.

Screen for quality. There’s no need to go headhunting. If someone isn’t interested enough to apply, they’re probably not worth having around. Once you have found a promising candidate, she says, “ask their profs which areas they excel in and which areas they may not.” You don’t want to get stuck with a dud.

Heap on the work. You’ll never know how much your intern is capable of if you don’t challenge them. “Watch for signs of stress,” she says, “but also for signs of productivity.” If they handle the first pile of work with ease, you know you’ve landed a real workhorse – and possibly someone who deserves special consideration.

Take them seriously. Not only does treating your intern with respect keep them from jumping ship, it also creates a learning environment. “Students are often using advanced technology and software,” says Sloat. “You should be prepared to learn from them, too.”

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