Guess what? If you’re not engaged, your interns won’t be either

Written by: Melissa Noyes, MSW

Part of the fun of not having actual office space is working from local coffee shops.  It adds a little flavor to my day.  I like watching people and the way they interact with each other.  Sometimes this people watching lends itself to a bit of eavesdropping.  (C’mon you know you do it too!)

This morning I’m sitting near a table of three individuals that appear to be from the corporate world.  Their table is strewn with binders and stacks of paper.  At first glance, it appears as if they are having an important meeting.  But then I start to catch snippets of their meeting (I can’t help but overhear their conversation–we are Americans after all, and we talk LOUDLY in public).  I hear the word “intern”, my interest piques.  It becomes quite obvious from their conversation that these people are not engaged in their workplace.  They are, and I quote, “working longer hours for less pay and fewer benefits” just like many in this economy (and clearly, in Dilbert’s office as well…I use the cartoon to illustrate what engagement clearly isn’t).  They don’t feel supported by the others in their office.  They gripe about co-workers.  And they have interns.  And (gasp!) their interns aren’t meeting their expectations.

Now, there could be a few reasons that this is occurring.  Maybe they aren’t finding the right people to fill their internship vacancies.  Maybe their training is lacking. Maybe their interns are slackers.  But maybe their interns are qualified young individuals that are interning in a workplace with little or no engagement.  This raises an important question–How does engagement affect interns?

Interns can bring a lot to any organization or business.  It can be a fantastic reciprocal relationship.  I think; however, that it is critical that an organization view their interns as part of the engagement continuum.  We all want to engage our donors and volunteers, right? But how much effort do we spend on engaging interns?  Interns are an asset; they are valuable.  They can turn into amazing employees.  They can turn into donors or volunteers.  But only if they felt engaged during their internship.

For interns, engagement may be twofold.  First, they need support from the organization.  They need to feel a connection to (and supported by) at least one person, and ideally, a team of people.  They should have quality training.  Expectations should be clearly defined by their support system.  The organization should support their strengths and help them to identify areas of growth.  Second, their skills sets need to be matched to real work.  Allowing them to be creative, use their skills, and learn new professional skills is an invaluable experience for an intern.  Trust that your interns can do quality work.  Be open to their suggestions and ideas.  It’s okay to give constructive criticism and advice–interns are craving it.

I think it comes down to this–workplace engagement rubs off on interns.  If your organization values engagement and your employees are engaged, your interns will be too.  If your organization feels disjointed and your employees aren’t feeling connected, your interns won’t feel connected either.

Need to re-engage with your work?  Want to help your employees to feel more engaged? Check out the blogs below for some tips.

Hey Indy readers! Want to make sure that your organization is providing a great experience for your interns?  Plan to join us on September 9 from 9 a.m.-11 a.m. at the English Foundation Building for our Engage! Interns training.  It’s just 10 bucks and you’ll walk away with some great strategies and information.  RSVP to  More info:

We can also provide training for your workplace on creating engaged teams!  Email for more info!


About catalystxchange

Catalyst X-Change, Inc. is a 501c3 serving the greater Indianapolis area. Catalyst was founded by two Millennials (Kristin Clements-Effner and Melissa Noyes) with a passion and a vision for world change. We believe that significant and positive change can happen when individuals come together and match their passions with tangible actions. Our mission is to advance community through meaningful action.
This entry was posted in Engagement, Generation Z--Work with young people, Generations in the Workplace, Interns and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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