All Articles Leadership Inspiration Helping summer interns (and you) get the most out of the experience

Helping summer interns (and you) get the most out of the experience

Entrepreneurs offer advice on how to make the most of your summer interns.

5 min read



Andrew Neel/Unsplash

The Young Entrepreneur Council is an invite-only organization composed of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC launched BusinessCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses. Read previous SmartBrief posts by YEC.

If you enjoy this article, join SmartBrief’s e-mail list for our daily newsletter for entrepreneurs.

1. Help them develop the skills they need

Internships should not be about adding a brand to a resume; rather, they should be about adding bullet points. Understand their goals and make sure they have the opportunity to own a deliverable so that they can tell a meaningful story from the summer. The better their experience, the more likely they will be to sing your praises, both growing the brand and encouraging future interns to join. — Aaron Schwartz, Modify Watches

2. Create specific roles for them

Often, interns are around and what is given to them is an afterthought. Instead, plan as though they are a regular employee, and structure the work and role accordingly as though they were there for the long term. This will get more work out of them and help them learn more. — Andrew O’Connor, American Addiction Centers

3. Give them time off

For our summer internship, we only require our interns to come into the office three to four days a week. This lets them have a balance between work and enjoying their summer break. We also emphasize that we don’t want them to be doing work outside the office so that they can really step away from work on their days off. Working a block from the beach doesn’t hurt either. — Bryanne Lawless, BLND Public Relations

4. Take advantage of their flexible schedules

Summer interns are great as they often have a more flexible work schedule due to a lighter class load. Because of this, we can include our interns in more hands-on projects, have them attend events with the company and assign more responsibility that not only helps the company but provides a meaningful experience for your intern. — Leila Lewis, Be Inspired PR

5. Throw them in the deep end

The best way to learn is by doing. We give interns difficult challenges that might be above their capabilities, but we encourage them to be resourceful and ask a lot of questions. If they rise to the challenge, we offer them a full-time job, gaining an employee that we know is talented and already knows the company’s processes. — Russell Kommer, eSoftware Associates Inc.

6. Be flexible with schedules

We let our interns decide what their weekly scheduled looks like, all that we ask is that they give us at least 20-25 hours. This lets them decide when they can make time to come in and be helpful, which also means we get 100 percent of their dedication and focus. — Kelsey Meyer, Influence & Co.

7. Establish mutual goals

It’s important to set concrete expectations of both the company and the intern from the start. You want the intern to set clear and concise goals of what he or she expects to get out of the internship. But you also need to convey what you, as an employer, look to get out of the intern. Most importantly, you are looking for that person to go above and beyond what either of you expected. — Justin Lefkovitch, Mirrored Media

8. Help them see the bigger picture

It’s important for interns to understand the bigger picture and to see that what they are doing in the moment will eventually contribute to an end goal. Give them clear tasks and projects to work on, and make sure they understand how this fits into the big picture. Talented interns will go above and beyond what you expect of them no matter the time of year. — Brian David Crane, Caller Smart Inc.

9. Write down expectations

Having a formal structure for what we are doing, including writing down expectations on both sides, builds the best value. Everyone knows what they are doing and why. Writing it down makes it more geared toward accountability and measurement. — Drew Hendricks, Buttercup

10. Give them work on experimental processes

Rather than having interns do all the jobs no one else wants to do, I prefer to give them a real project that will benefit the company — often experimental development work or a novel marketing approach. The company benefits, and the intern gains valuable knowledge and experience. — Justin Blanchard, ServerMania Inc

11. Encourage questions

Encourage them to ask a lot of questions. The interns will gain a better understanding of the business, and asking questions will increase their confidence by making their voices heard. Having an outsider with a fresh set of eyes is a great resource for create ideas. — Patrick Barnhill, Specialist ID Inc.

12. Offer them unusual perks

Young summer interns are easily impressionable. Simple and unusual perks, such as free pizza or cool gear, will build a strong bond with your intern and generate better returns for you. Your summer intern will love coming to work and will be more motivated to succeed. Your competitors are offering an opportunity to gain experience — you are doing that and building a highly motivated team member. — Diego Orjuela, Cables & Sensors