Six Questions to Ask When Working with Interns

If you’ve ever had the opportunity to intern with a church or organization, you understand that many internships are heavy on the grunt work and light on the growth work. So if you have an intern working with you, or you hope to find an intern soon, let me challenge you to ask six important questions:

1. Do I Understand My Intern’s Strengths and Passions? Interns are typically young–often college students–who are still coming to grips with their identity, strengths, weaknesses, and talents. One of the best things you can do for an intern is to help them discover their strengths and passions. By having them take a series of assessments (spiritual gifts, strengthsfinder, personality, etc.) you’ll help your intern gain valuable insight into how God has wired them and better understand how they can add the greatest value to the organization.

2. Does my Intern’s “To Do List” Go Beyond the Mundane? Interns understand that a certain amount of their work will be relatively mundane–copying, filing, running errands, etc. But as the leader, your job is to insure your intern has some opportunities that require skill greater than that of a 6th grader. Mundane tasks equate to nothing more than boredom. But an intern can handle episodes of boredom so long as other responsibilities in their job description tap their creativity, passion, and skills.

3. Who Does My Intern Interact With? Interns love the opportunity to interact with other leaders. The problem is, most interns don’t get those opportunities unless we open the door for them. I like to invite interns into meetings with key leaders so they can better understand how leaders think, the kinds of questions they ask, how to lead a meeting, and how to work with teams.

4. What Am I Doing to Expand my Intern’s Experience? The key to answering this question is to understand your intern’s dreams for the future. If you know their dreams, you’ll be able to identify a handful of crucial experiences and skills your intern will need in order to reach those dreams. Then you can build those experiences into the internship followed by “debrief” meetings that will help your intern assimilate what they have learned.

5. Which Organizational Role Does my Intern Own? This is where your intern can gain the greatest experience and test their leadership skills. Every intern needs to own a project or lead a group of people. If they do not have a project that rests on their shoulders or a team they are responsible to lead, they will not develop skills essential to their long-term success.

6. Am I Investing Regularly in My Intern’s Personal Growth? I have discovered that a one-hour weekly coaching appointment with an intern can be the most valuable hour in that intern’s week. Read a book together. Ask your intern what they want to learn and work together to craft a developmental plan. Help them develop a skill, discover their life purpose, and embrace a habit of personal growth planning. Internships are not just about what the intern can do for you, but equally important, how you can invest in their growth. In addition to weekly coaching, I’ve often bought books for an intern, shared valuable leadership lessons, or taken an intern with me to a leadership conference.

Questions: Which of the six questions above can you answer positively? Which one(s) do you need to work on? If you were an intern, what would you want your leader to do for you?