The summer is winding down and college students are getting ready to head back to school. Some lucky ones had an opportunity to work as interns during their break from classes. If you have an internship program, I have some ideas how to get the most from it. If you do not, I will give you encouragement to start one.
This summer I had the great opportunity to have an intern for my company's user experience team. It was exciting to see where classroom theory met desktop know-how. They had a meaningful impact to our projects, and invigorated me with a desire to keep learning. This experience directly inspired this article. I hope your internship program can inspire the same feelings.
Take on Interns
Obviously, if you do not have an intern program, none of this will bear any fruit. Internships can benefit so many aspects of your church. It gives much needed experience to young professionals. It also gives you extra help for those larger projects you have been avoiding starting. Plus interns are a great resource. Yes they can assist doing work. But they offer that younger perspective most churches need.
Treat it like a job
Interns should experience the same process as anyone applying for a full-time job at your church. This means filling out applications, interviews, and background checks. This will add time and expense to starting your program. But your intern needs to go through this process. Not only will it help you weed out any "bad" applicants. But, hopefully, in a few years, they will go through the same thing with their first "real" job.
So many times churches look for people to volunteer their time and talent. I understand that budgets are tight. But your interns deserve compensation for their time. Granted you can decide to pay them minimum wage. But this agreement must have an exchange. Both sides need to be invested. The intern needs to feel the nudge to perform well. Plus you need to feel the desire to give them meaningful work.
Give teaching moments
As I mentioned in the last paragraph, you need to give your interns meaningful work. They need to own parts of the job. This means giving them exclusive responsibility over parts of a project. More importantly, it also means allowing them to make mistakes. Just ensure it does not cause permanent damage. These bigger mistakes would be social media bloopers, or irrecoverable data loss. Then again, cleaning. up those problems could be a great learning opportunity. Either way, have meaningful work ready for your intern to take on.
One of the most important objects for a web professional is not their resume. It is their portfolio. This is because we do not care that much about what you say you can do. We want to see it. So allow your interns to take something with them. You can ask that they remove certain things from these, such as logos or certain names. Or you can ask that they not post these examples online. But allow them to showcase their work during a future interview.
Before you start your intern program, I suggest you examine your current project forecast. If it looks like you could use the extra help, start developing the onboarding plan you intend to use. Plus you will need a dedicated person to help supervise and mentor them. Start thinking big for next summer and queue up work for your intern to take on. You will help your church better spread the Gospel online. Plus you will provide a young professional with much needed experience.
Note: Thanks to "my" summer intern Kate McLean for her hard work. She was inspiration and a valuable asset to our summer intern program. When she graduates in the spring of 2017 she will be a great addition to the Pittsburgh UX community.