Supervising an Intern: No Ordinary Management Role
My team has constant conversations about how we can make the intern program as appealing as possible for young conservatives looking for their first start in the movement.
If you’ve supervised an intern, you’ll understand there’s a lot more required of you than project delegation. The responsibility is on you to be their boss, but also their mentor, guiding them through the process and giving them the tools necessary to create their path.
As an LI intern just three years ago this summer, I was fortunate to have a supervisor who gave me projects of high responsibility, was quick to point out good work, and as quick to tell me where I could improve. Most importantly, my supervisor invested heavily in my professional development.
There are three pillars of being an effective intern supervisor.
1. Delegate projects of high responsibility and push your intern out of their comfort zone
I often hear it said that it would be quicker to do work yourself than give it to an intern whose work you will only have to edit. Of course it would, but your intern is not there to do your job for you, they’re there to learn.
When your intern first starts, you should hold an introductory meeting to establish your expectations and figure out what your intern is hoping to get out of the experience. This will help you understand the skills you can teach them and delegate challenging projects accordingly. Hold a weekly meeting to ensure your interns are meeting their goals.
By giving your interns projects of high responsibility with clear expectations and deadlines, they will quickly become a useful contributor if they are up to the task.
2. Be their boss, not their friend
Don’t get me wrong; I like the interns who come through LI and enjoy getting to know them and supporting their careers. But your intern needs you to be their boss and their mentor. Too many supervisors fail to establish the relationship early on, they complain about their interns without expressing concerns directly and wonder why their interns keep screwing up.
Hold your interns to a high standard and make your expectations clear. When your intern exceeds your expectations, be quick to express your gratitude. For example, if an intern outside the division I work in helps me without being prompted, I like to email their supervisor, so they get credit.
When an intern doesn’t meet your expectations, your role as their supervisor is to make them aware. If you edit their work, explain why. Or if they come in late, call them out on it before it becomes a habit.
3. Alert them to networking and professional development opportunities
Most people new to the DC area or wherever their internship is taking place will be unfamiliar with the opportunities they have to attend networking events, explore the city, and invest in their skills through training and policy discussions.
Your responsibility as a supervisor is to help your intern hit the ground running. Wherever possible, forward them recommendations of training and events they should attend and take them with you so you can introduce them to important contacts.
Work experience is only half the purpose here; the goal should be to give your intern a comprehensive experience, so they gain the skills, the knowledge, and the contacts to secure a full-time job.