SCAN has been fortunate to have the support of interns to help not only in our day-to-day operations but also when research and program implementation are needed. It was through the hard work of our intern Megan Sharma last summer that we were able to get the support and materials written for our newest initiative, Operation Safe Babies.
Many managers in the non-profit world are afraid of interns because it can mean “more work” and someone else to supervise. But if you can put that thinking aside and change your perception of interns, they can prove to be an invaluable asset to your organization and help you do even more to support your mission.
This summer, we have interns supporting us from George Mason University (Rebecca) and the Institute on Philanthropy & Voluntary Service program through The Fund for American Studies (Allison). We asked them a few questions to better understand their role as interns within a human services setting, and share some of their thoughts on how interns and employers can get the most out of the experience:
- How do you relate your own expectations to your intern site and intern supervisor? What if your expectations aren’t being met, what would you do?
ALLISON: I relate my expectations to my supervisor during meetings that we have to check in about how projects are proceeding and what is coming up in the future. If my expectations were not being met, I would ask if and how it might be possible to incorporate them into my assignments.
REBECCA: I try to use the interview process to express my expectations and to get a solid understanding of what the intern site’s expectations will be before accepting an internship, if that is possible. If my expectations are not being met, then I try to find a way to express that appropriately to my supervisor and discuss what changes, if any, can be made to try and meet my expectations.
- What is one thing you want your internship supervisor to know about you?
ALLISON: I would want my supervisor to know how my past experiences can be best utilized on the job, but perhaps more importantly, what skills and learning experiences I hope to take away from my time interning. Most young people I know take internships (especially when unpaid) to develop the skill sets they believe will be valuable in the field or industry they hope to pursue.
REBECCA: I am self-motivated enough that with adequate support I can learn any skills I did not have before starting this internship.
- What makes for a successful internship?
ALLISON: A successful internship is one in which there is an open dialogue between the intern and supervisor and the intern is actively and consistently challenged without being overwhelmed.
REBECCA: I believe adequate support and supervision, as well as a supportive relationship between the intern and supervisor, make an internship successful.
- How can an organization best support your internship experience?
ALLISON: An organization can best support your internship experience by encouraging conversation about how things are going on both sides, and being supportive but still offering honest criticism. Internships provide great opportunities to experience a given workplace without too much pressure, so it’s a perfect opportunity for the intern to learn what he or she does well as well as where he or she needs to further develop skills.
REBECCA: An organization can best support interns by providing the support they need through consistent feedback and supervision. Interns should feel like they are truly valued by the organization and that they are contributing to the organization’s work.
- What are effective ways that an internship supervisor can engage you in the work they are asking you to produce?
ALLISON: Knowing what skills an intern hopes to strengthen and allowing him or her to incorporate those aspects into projects is a great way of maintaining his or her engagement. Also, maintaining that open communication so as to provide opportunities for him or her to ask questions and clarify any confusion can prevent stalls and / or disengagement.
REBECCA: Taking time to thank interns for their work, even briefly, and providing feedback are effective ways to engage interns in their work.
- What impact do you hope to make at SCAN?
ALLISON: I hope to aid the individuals here in their work, complete my assigned projects, and hopefully provide the insight that can come from having different perspectives.
REBECCA: I hope to create meaningful and useful materials to support the Parent Education Program’s work with caregivers and children.