The Intern Chronicles, Part 3: Help Youth Make the Most of an Internship
Over the summer, we followed Craig, a young man working as an intern at Sea Haven Youth Services in North Myrtle Beach, SC. As his experience wound down, we spoke to his supervisor, Melissa McGrath, about ways youth workers can reinforce the lessons learned during the internship in order to help youth prepare for the next step in their careers.
“Youth workers can be an asset by helping interns who’ve decided on a career path with their job search, updating a resume, and having mock interviews together,” McGrath says.
Here are some things you can do with youth to help them move to the next employment opportunity:
Review “soft skills.” In their first few jobs, young people are learning how to be good workers. Before, during and after an internship, talk to them about these basic requirements in the workplace:
- Effective communication. “Interns need to learn how to talk with their supervisor when they are having problems, that can interfere with their job performance,” McGrath says. Interns also need to be able to communicate with coworkers and stakeholders effectively. Encourage straightforward, tactful and honest conversations.
- Professionalism. Explain office standards and policies (including dress codes) at the beginning of an internship and reinforce them when opportunities arise. Praise youth when they follow guidelines, and hold them accountable when they don’t.
- Punctuality. This is often one of the areas that young interns struggle with. Supervisors should make clear the expectation that youth arrive on time for work and for meetings and appointments. Bosses can also lead by example by being punctual themselves.
- Initiative. Youth may not have experience taking initiative and being knowledgeable about the programs and services offered by the company or organization they work for. Case managers and supervisors should work together to show youth opportunities for being creative and stepping forward.
- Boundaries. Interns need to have a clear understanding of what is allowed and what is not allowed when they are interacting with coworkers, supervisors, and customers or clients.
Request references. McGrath suggests talking with youth about the importance of maintaining a good rapport with past employers and the importance of recommendation letters. Youth might send a thank you card or email, and ask whether the employer would be willing to give a recommendation in the future.
Refresh the resume. Even before an internship has ended, young people can begin to update their resumes with the new experiences, skills and accomplishments they’ve gained. Ask them about the internship and what they think they’ve learned, and help them turn their answers into bullet points for their resumes.