What to do with your summer intern

by Alexandra Kutcher

Greetings from the Pivot summer intern! I’m here to tell you a bit about my time as an intern, and what you may want to do with your intern.

So you got yourself an intern. Marvelous. What are you going to do with them? You know good and well, they can’t just organize pens and make coffee forever.

As an intern, I’ve found myself doing several miscellaneous tasks that other employees may or may not want to do themselves.   I’ve also been asked to come up with ideas for new Pivot Pulse entries.

Wait there just a minute…

Alright, alright, I see how it’s going to be. Make the intern write about interns. Very funny guys.

Well folks, if you don’t know what to do with your intern, make them write about what to do with an intern. It’ll keep ‘em occupied all summer, getting lost deeper and deeper in the vicious cycle of writing about themselves, writing about themselves, writing about themselves… It’s all rather Inception-like.

But in all seriousness—because I’m clearly a very serious girl—I’ve been given some really meaningful and fun assignments here in the Pivot office. I’ve had the opportunity to work on storyboards, use Pinterest for marketing purposes, edit a website, and paint a ginormous mural.  Needless to say, my friends are green with envy that I’m getting paid to do cool things while they’re spending their summers scooping ice cream and folding burritos for minimum wage.

But it isn’t all fun and games. I also am assigned a lot of research work and then use Excel spreadsheets to record my findings. But who doesn’t love Excel?!

Answer: most 19-year-olds.

I have genuinely valued all of my projects, though. I am learning a lot about office life and how businesses are run. Let’s face it, I couldn’t let Steve Carell set the precedent for every office forever. That’s right, there aren’t any cameras to look into when something funny or awkward happens, no ditzy receptionist, no weird beet farmer whom I can prank. (Although my desk-mate does live on a farm…)

All that said, experiencing work and gleaning from the experts is what this whole thing is about anyway. A lot of people never get to do a sort of test-run on work, and being in an office space all day.  College students spend their summers working, yes. But it is often not in an office at a desk, even though that is where many of them will end up after they march across that stage, signifying that they have a bona fide degree for whatever it is they studied so diligently for.

So, if you’re following me, give your intern some meaningful projects. Yes, interns are the ones on whom you can blame mistakes, and the ones who make all the coffee. (Although here at Pivot, I’ve never been asked to make coffee. Just saying.)

Giving the intern tasks that pertain to projects other employees are working on will not only mean a lot to said intern, but will be beneficial to their knowledge of how offices work and how they will one day be expected to operate.   That’s right, ladies and gentlemen: you are shaping the future of the workforce! You have a say in who runs the businesses of tomorrow, and how they do it.

A great way to make the whole operation run smoothly is to make one person in the office your intern’s go-to. This person should be someone who is around all the time and has the flexibility to talk to/explain assignments to the intern. A great tactic is to ask all of your employees if they have any small projects they can entrust to the intern, or anything they could possibly want help with, and then make a list of all those things. That way, the intern can be given a few things from the list at a time, and not have to run back to their go-to every couple hours asking for new tasks.

This list is helpful because as long as things are added to it throughout the internship, there shouldn’t be any time when there’s nothing for the intern to do.

And don’t forget to put a few fun things on that list, too. You’re trying to get these kids to love your profession as much as you do, so you want them to enjoy their time in addition to getting a great learning experience.  I’ve certainly been having a good time with the Pivot staff. It is a privilege to watch and learn from them, and get a taste of life after college.

So even if you’re not a paper company in Scranton, Pennsylvania, fear not! Your intern, believe it or not, can probably learn more from you than they ever could from Michael Scott, and have fun while doing it.

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