Supervising interns

The impact of a supportive supervisor/mentor upon the experience of an intern cannot be stressed enough. When done well, effective supervision can provide the backbone of a mutually beneficial internship.

With the body of knowledge and skills they have accumulated, intern supervisors and mentors can nurture a newcomer to the sector at the beginning of their career by providing feedback, support, monitoring and evaluation. An ideal time to introduce an intern to their supervisor/mentor is during their induction which, if possible, should take place on the first day of the internship. You may choose to combine the roles of supervisor and mentor into a single role; alternatively, you may choose to assign these roles to two distinct team members. In this case, the supervisor would take responsibility for overseeing the intern’s workload and providing feedback on their work performance, whereas the mentor would offer the intern help in achieving their learning and career goals as well as general pastoral support. This can be particularly useful for giving the intern a neutral third party with which to discuss any potential concerns with the internship. If your organisation opts to assign a separate mentor, you may choose to pre-select this person, or to give the intern a chance to meet several members of the team during the beginning of their internship before selecting a mentor who they feel to be the best fit.

Supervising, mentoring and supporting interns: Recommended reading list

Internships that work: A guide for employers  (CIPD)
A comprehensive guide produced by the Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development (CIPD) which includes useful advice around supervising and mentoring interns.

Work Based Learning Mentoring Handbook (Cardiff Metropolitan University)
While this handbook is not about mentoring interns specifically, it does provide a wealth of relevant advice for those supporting learners in the workplace, including: questioning techniques, providing feedback, coaching and action planning.

Work placements in the arts and cultural sector: Diversity, equality and access (EQU)
This piece of research conducted by the Equality Challenge Unit into student work placements contains much that is applicable to internships, and encourages host organisations to consider equality issues in their approach to supporting interns.

Introduction to Enterprise Mentoring online training (Get Mentoring)
This free online distance learning programme provides step by step instruction in mentoring entrepreneurs through videos, workbooks and activities.

Supervising, mentoring and supporting interns: Toolkit

The following selection of resources are designed to enable better supervision and mentoring in internships. Many are aimed at encouraging interns to reflect on their experience, a key step in learning ‘on the job’, and may provide a useful basis for regular meetings between interns and mentors/supervisors.

SMART Goal Setting Worksheet (SparkPeople)

Working with an intern to define goals that are SMART (specific, measureable, attainable, relevant and timely) can help them to make the most of the experience. This resource provides a blank template for setting SMART goals.

Activity Log Template (MindTools)
Keeping a record of tasks completed and feelings towards these can be a useful reflective tool for interns, and can be handy for keeping track of experience for future job applications. This resource provides a basic activity log template.

Learning Log 1 (University of Hull)
Learning Log 2 (Durham University)
While these learning logs have been designed for use in student work placements, the process of keeping a learning log (or journal) will also be of benefit within internships. These logs are aimed at encouraging interns to critically reflect upon their experience and personal development.

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