A 20-something’s guide to managing fellow millennials

The author, a member of Generation Y, spent the summer helping oversee a group of interns. She offers these lessons for young managers.

This summer, Ragan Communications got lucky—we landed three top-notch, highly qualified interns to help churn out copy for our websites and print publications.

I helped manage their daily activities.

I’d like to think that each one learned a little something about the writing and editing process. But what they don’t know is how much I learned from them—especially when it comes to managing.

Here are seven ways you can help your interns have a successful internship at your company:

Remember what it’s like being an intern. Do you recall your worst interning experience? Think about what made it so awful—and don’t inflict the same amount of pain on the next generation. Then again, if you’ve only had positive interning experiences, you should think about what made your internship(s) special and see if you can do the same for someone else.

Lead them in the right direction. Interns can’t read your mind—and you shouldn’t expect them (or anybody else) to do so, either. When you give them a task, tell them what to expect. But give them enough room to find the answers on their own. If they need help, they’ll ask you.

Give interns something tangible to work on. Beyond pay (or college credit), you need to figure out how to make the intern experience worth it for them. Make sure you are giving them assignments that can improve their résumés. You don’t want one of their bullet points to be, “Delivered gourmet cups of coffee to the editorial staff on a daily basis.”

Make it enjoyable. Ask your interns what they want out of the internship. At the very least, ask them what they like to do. It’s your job to try to make their internship interesting. For example, one intern loved watching hospital rap videos; another liked to write about sports; and the other worked on our Millennial Mafia blog.

Delegate. When you’re in charge of managing your own schedule nine months out of the year, it can be challenging to restructure your workflow. Before your interns come to the office, write a list of your daily tasks and decide what responsibilities an intern can take on. An intern shouldn’t do your work for you, but their contributions should make it easier for you to do your work.

Be a good reference. Keep track of what each intern is doing. That way, if they want a reference letter or their future employer calls you, you’ll be able to give an informed recommendation.

Let them go. It can be hard to say goodbye, especially after you’ve become a pro at delegating assignments. If the experience was good for them, they’ll want to come back to your company next summer.


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