See the well-dressed lads and ladies bouncing around the office with a happy balance of curiosity-driven enthusiasm mixed with high-energy confidence and freedom? Those are the future leaders of our nation’s workforce: the interns! It’s that time of year again when interns arrive to our workplaces in droves to temporarily lend a hand to companies of all sizes in all industries. Interns can be a reminder -- good or bad -- of our early days in the workforce. Whatever your past experience, I challenge you to resist the urge to view these young people as free labor to be given all the tactical work you hate. Here’s what you should do instead.
Co-Op the Energy
Regardless of how long you’ve been at your job, you probably remember the joy of interning and the energy high most interns come into service with. Take moments to absorb some of that energy into your own work life. Chat with them about what interests them and what drove them to take the internship in the first place. Ask them for their ideas on something you have struggled with at work in the past. Invite them into meetings that may or may not be relevant to them just to bring some new energy to the table. Besides transferring some of their energy to you, you may also leverage their energy to encourage co-worker who need a boost.
Welcome the Fresh Perspective
Interns bring insight that many corporations need nowadays from the next generation of customers. You have the opportunity first hand to get a glimpse of the thinking and behaviors of the future leaders of our country. Suspend sarcasm and any comedy at the intern’s expense when they ask questions; try and imagine seeing what you’ve become accustomed to seeing daily for the very first time. Resist the “status quo” patronizing commentary when they offer up new idea -- listen and engage their ideas even if you can’t see implementing them now. Think of it as being a student in your business and you might come out of the summer feeling renewed and recharged about your specific role, department or the company as a whole.
Remember your own intern experience and draw from it as you enter this year’s intern season. Bring along all the good and build on it with your interns; learn from the negative and work not to repeat the pattern on someone else. Interaction with interns can be a great way to rekindle your love for work and re-engage yourself in improving your career experience.
Denise W. Barreto is the managing partner at Relationships Matter Now, LLC, a strategic business and marketing firm outside Chicago that connects relationships to maximize life and business. relationshipsmatternow.com.