CAREER CLINIC: The power of internships as a vehicle for growth

Like any healthy relationship, the connection between an Intern and an Employer must be centered on clear expectations, open dialogue, and a mutually beneficial outcome. Both parties have a role to play in ensuring the Internship stays fresh and stimulating to maximise the experience for all concerned.

Miranda Naiman 

BY Miranda Naiman

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Like any healthy relationship, the connection between an Intern and an Employer must be centered on clear expectations, open dialogue, and a mutually beneficial outcome. Both parties have a role to play in ensuring the Internship stays fresh and stimulating to maximise the experience for all concerned.

At Empower, we launched our coveted Internship programme 18 months ago in response to the overwhelming need for graduate work opportunities in Tanzania. We have had 6 tenacious Grads working with us to date – 3 of which have secured fulltime employment at Empower (2 work elsewhere and 1 is pursuing further studies). A definite success-story - and point of pride for our team – allow me to share what we have learnt:

Employers: Your Intern isn’t a coffee-machine, corporate checkbox or PR stunt to prove you are complaint; s/he is an adept and keen young person whose sole aim is to learn, grow and flourish. S/he has joined your organisation to ideally absorb as much as humanlypossible in a limited timeframe – their stint with you will inevitably affect their future career and be more than a bullet point on a CV. As an ethical employer, you have a duty to your country to offer a constructive placement for our future generation of leaders.

Here’s how: • Set up a buddy-system – Link your intern with one of your star performers. This has dual purpose as it allows your employee to manage a new member of the team while simultaneously allowing your intern to learn on-the-job from your star.

• Treat them like a permanent member of the team – Everyone relishes a sense of belonging; your intern may only be around for 3 months but you can fully immerse them in business operations from the get-go. Your intern will contribute so much more when they are recognised, valued and considered a true member of the team.

• Keep them busy – Where possible, rotate them around departments and expose to them to as much of your business as possible. Maximise their ability to make an impact by providing a rich, work experience and a plethora of opportunities for them to bloom.

• Involve them in projects – A 3-month project is an ideal internship as is exposes your enthusiastic (and inexperienced) Intern to an end-to-end business process and ultimately gives them a sense of accomplishment. Bonus: they can describe the project on their CV having contributed to its success.

• Harness your Intern’s Energy - they will view your business from an alternative angle and can contribute fresh ideas and initiatives (if you let them). Channel your intern’s energy appropriately and reap the rewards of a loyal, devoted young person who could potentially become a full-time employee.

• Give Back – We all need to play our part by providing work prospects and much-needed experience for School-leavers and Graduates. As their first employer, you leave an indelible mark on their life; in short you won’t be forgotten

Interns: Simply put: Bring your A Game! Drive the experience - ask questions, soak up all you can, mingle, and learn. Be on time, look sharp and stay calm and composed. Offer your support on projects, volunteer to work extra time and network with the rest of the team. This is a unique opportunity – your first work experience – and you only have one chance to make a positive impression. Enjoy the process and stay in touch with the organisation even if they don’t offer you a job once you complete the internship.

Even the smallest organisation can take on an Intern at little cost with the potential for high return on investment. The more you ‘invest’ in your Intern the bigger the impact they can/will have on your business. Embrace them, nurture them, push them and most importantly, give them feedback so they can adjust their behavior and evolve into the best version of themselves.

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