They’re eager to learn, they’re discovering their career path, and they’re ready to help YOU. Yes, they’re interns!

Whether just out of their freshman year or exploring the “real-world” post-university, your interns are looking to you for guidance as they navigate the marketing landscape. Here are some helpful tips on how to engage your interns for maximum growth and effectiveness, and most importantly, how you can help them learn.

As We Know, It’s All about Engagement

Your team has been provided an intern for the summer. Awesome! Now what?

As a marketer, you have practice engaging your customers with engagement marketing strategies, many of which can also be applied to engaging your intern. Cool! How? Let’s take a look.

Create a 1:1 personalized relationship to build trust and respect that will hopefully last through the years, even after your intern flies the coop. How do you get started? Here are a few things you can do:

  • Get to know him: Take him out to lunch (food brings everyone together.) Find out what he is studying at university (or previously studied). Discover his future goals, interests, and hobbies. Create a bond.
  • Find out her career interests: Which type of marketing does she envision pursuing? Does she like engaging with customers, or does she prefer being tied to new business? Is she interested in running field events, or managing the company’s Twitter feed?
  • Brainstorm projects related to these interests: Your intern may sit on your content marketing team, but perhaps you can connect with your social media manager to see if he can write a few Facebook posts. Help your intern explore other areas of marketing—he’s likely evaluating which areas of marketing intrigue him the most, so help him experiment with many facets of marketing to check off “yes” or “no” for future plans. His work across teams will also benefit the company as a whole.
  • Provide context: Give her an overview of your organizational chart. Provide definitions for often-used jargon. Explain your team’s mission and how her work will directly impact the company’s goals. This helps the intern to understand her part in the overall big picture.

Can I Just Give My Intern All of My Data-Heavy Projects?

No. Please don’t do that. You’ll burn him out very quickly! Of course, you can certainly give him some data projects (we all have to start somewhere), but build in some projects that feed his interests as well. But, you may have been blessed with an intern who wants to dive head-first into some marketing analytics (I see a future marketing operations role in his future!), so, I say, let ‘em do it! The key is to find a balance between your team’s needs and your intern’s interests. Here are some examples of projects that data-hungry interns can nosh on:

  • Have you received a list from a third-party event without email addresses? Ask your intern to pull email addresses for people you have in your CRM.
  • Do you have some sales emails in your marketing automation system that no longer apply? Have your intern go through the system to identify these for de-activation.
  • Are you planning events and want to make sure you have enough marketable contacts in a city? Have your intern pull lists for review.

For the less data-eager crowd, here are some other examples of intern-worthy projects:

  • Event Evaluations: As an event marketer, you tend to get flooded with potentially interesting event sponsorship opportunities. Provide your intern with your evaluation criteria and ask her to contact these organizations to answer your qualifying questions. Bonus points for asking your intern to provide her recommendation for action (should your team sponsor this event? If so, at what level?) Maybe she’ll even suggest a new event that brings in your next big $1M deal! You never know…
  • Venue Research: Summer is here, so if you’re in corporate event marketing, you’re likely working on your summer roadshows or planning luncheons across the globe. Arm your intern with the event specs and ask him to do some research for the local areas. Again, bonus points for asking your intern to provide his recommendations on the ideal space.
  • Telemarketing: Your intern likely didn’t sign on to be a sales development representative, but professional conversational skills are essential for a future in marketing, no matter the position. So, have your intern get her feet wet by making reminder calls the day before an event.
  • Budget Documentation: Admit it—budgeting is an important task that often gets pushed to the wayside while you’re busy with all of your marketing planning and execution. Have a pile of invoices on your desk that need inputting into your financial management software (or an old-school Excel spreadsheet)? Ask your intern to update your system for financial accuracy. This will help build his financial planning skills and is another task that may speak to a future in marketing operations!

There are plenty of other ideas depending on your team’s needs–from helping with customer advocate campaigns, to writing promotional email copy for your upcoming webinar series, to creating real-time personalization campaigns targeting specific accounts or industries. Again, think about your intern’s skills and passions, what you actually need done, and how these ideas can complement each other.

Don’t Forget—Internships Are a Two-Way Street

Yes, your intern is there to help support you, but she is also there to learn from you! Work together to identify projects that fit her interests as well as support your goals:

  • Identify where her challenges lie and what she wants to improve
  • Propose different software she can learn and gauge her interest in doing so
  • Inspire her to try new things—highlight your top projects and see if she has suggestions on how she can help
  • Give her room to be creative—encourage new ideas and proposals
  • Most importantly—Share the impact her efforts have made, whether that’s increasing event registrations by a certain percentage, saving the team time or money, or engaging more customer advocates. Her efforts will better the team in some way, so measure this and recognize her for a job well done!

Inspire Your Intern

I was lucky to have an amazing first internship experience my junior year of college. As an event intern for Stratus Performance Group in Santa Barbara, CA, I helped plan the first ever Elite Meetings Alliance, bringing together prequalified corporate and association planners with leaders in the luxury hotel industry to cultivate relationships and conduct business. My managers entrusted me to make decisions and empowered me to do my best, which allowed me to truly shine. I’ll never forget one attendee being astonished that I was an intern still in college and not a full-time employee. (That sure made me feel good)! Overall, it was a memorable, enriching experience that ultimately led me to pursue a career in event marketing. Now imagine that—you could end up influencing your intern’s entire future!

Here’s the bottom line: Think about your past internships and those managers and teammates that helped you learn the most. Those experiences serve as your model for how to interact and work with your intern. Be inspiring, be inspired, and give back to the marketing community—adopt an intern today!

Do you have any stories from your past internships and how they helped you learn and grow? Have you had the privilege of managing a rock-star intern? I would love to hear your own experiences, so please comment below!