(MoneyWatch) COMMENTARY In the next few weeks, thousands of summer interns will descend upon corporate America. Most hope that these 8-12 week stints will give them an advantage in the post graduation job market. They could, but you can help your interns have an even more productive experience by teaching them these secrets for having one gig lead to another:
1. Build a portfolio. Simply listing an internship on a resume isn't enough. Future employers will be more impressed to see what the intern has actually done. So help your interns think through how their work can translate into concrete results that show them at their best. Years ago, I had an internship at a small newspaper, and while I did a decent job on everything assigned, I only realized later that they would have run anything I'd written. So I should have used that opportunity to write some longer, clever features that would have showcased my writing and reporting ability in a way that might have impressed larger publications.
2. Get advice. You learn a lot about an industry simply by observing it for several years. Encourage your interns to meet people of different tenures, and encourage people on your team to take your interns out for coffee. Your interns will learn all kinds of things that way: What graduate programs people respect and don't, what helps people get promoted, what kind of life they can expect to lead in your industry.
3. Build a network. Most interns make the mistake of contacting people they meet through internships only when they're looking for a job. This purely transactional networking can leave everyone a bit cold. So Lauren Berger, who runs the website Intern Queen and is the author of the new book All Work, No Pay, encourages interns to contact old mentors and friends three times a year. "You should be checking in just to say hello," she says. "That way if you really need something, it's not awkward to ask." Encourage your interns to see relationships as long term. Even if they don't wind up working for you immediately after graduation, they might in the future. Or they might start an incredibly profitable company and wind up hiring you. Who knows? It doesn't hurt to know more people, rather than fewer.
What are you teaching your interns?