The Shriver Report – How Managers Can Make Internships Valuable For Young Women

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How Managers Can Make Internships Valuable For Young Women
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Type “internship” into Google search and follow up the term with any online media outlet’s name. Your query will return dozens of articles dictating the kind of intern you should be hiring.

They say young women vying for internships should arrive to the interview with a one-page resume, a solid GPA, and a skirt hemmed to a conservative length. She should be considered well-rounded from her studies to the local community, but also exhibit signs of a social life too – an increasing side note I see in internship job descriptions now more than ever, almost added in as an afterthought that, oh yeah, work shouldn’t be your whole life. But before that note it says she also needs to have at least one or more internships already under her belt.

I find it strange that so many companies demand so much out of interns before they get their foot in the door and once they do, it’s only narrowly opened for them. Absolutely no internship is created equal on a workload or financial level. Tech interns reel in the big bucks, while those with hourly paychecks focus on all those silver lining blog posts about the hidden value of interning.

And anyone not getting paid, but putting in 28.9 hours (the average number of hours interns work per week, according to SCSU Department of Communication Studies), I can only hope you at least get to telecommute for this position.

If you focus on bringing in interns to do grunt work, you’re doing it wrong. If you hire on the premise that they can single-handedly elevate your entire brand’s presence for free, you’re even more in the red here. Interns need a confident, responsible manager to guide these women along on their chosen career path.

The manager is the root behind the internship and can really make all the difference when it comes to enriching this experience for everyone involved. Here are some ways you can make an internship valuable for a young woman:

1) Feeling some self-doubt about being a manager? Kick that to the curb right now.

In 2011, when I was first given the opportunity to hire two interns in the social media department I managed about a month after I was hired, “Wow! Already?” were the first two words to pop into my head. I was barely a year out from having graduated from college, but in a lot of ways, I was already prepped for the job. I just didn’t realize it yet.

Throughout high school and college I had worked several jobs, internships, and did extracurricular activities. Bit by bit, I had built myself up to be a leader and when the time came to actually take the reins, I said yes because this was the jump I had been prepping for years to make. Leap and don’t look back.

But if you don’t think you can make the leap, let someone else lead the way instead. Knowing you aren’t ready to take the lead isn’t showing a sign of weakness at all, but feigning expertise where you don’t have it will ultimately cause both you and your interns to struggle in the short and long run alike.

2) Have a plan in place as to what the internship will consist of.

This is a key component to the success of any internship and should be one that you, the manager, have reviewed with other department members and any higher-up executives too.

Start with the amount of hours your intern is scheduled for each week and go from there in terms of assigning hands-on projects to work on. Don’t assign more than they can chew and if you do, make the final deadline flexible with regular weekly check-ins to see how far progress is coming along.

More than just a weekly check-in, encourage a “you’ve got questions, I’ve got answers” mentality with your interns and communicate on a regular basis through email, text, and even visiting their office for extra help.

3) Grow together.

No manager knows every single thing about the field they’re in, where it’s going, and what it might look like in 10 years. What they do know is what’s happening in the present and how the hard work now will affect both the company and their profession later on so it’s important to stay passionate about this field and let that feeling translate in everything you do.

Interns need to know that being committed is cool so keep them in the loop by reading daily newsletters, checking in with their Twitter and Tumblr dashboards, and encouraging everyone to openly discuss and debate on topics in the news that they were fascinated by during the week.

If a manager is the root of an internship, then the interns are the branches – avoid cutting them down before they have the chance to grow and show you what they’re truly capable of.



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Heather Taylor is a Reporter for The Shriver Report.
Heather Taylor is a social media manager, freelance writer, and blogger who has had her written work published with Yahoo! Shine, Forbes, Social Media Monthly, BettyConfidential, HelloGiggles, The Huffington Post, and more. Contact her on Twitter @howveryheather or directly email
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