A marketing intern’s passion and drive to excel can serve as vital assets to any marketing team. They can bring a fresh perspective, energy, and enthusiasm that can revitalize and invigorate marketing campaigns. What’s more, their eagerness to learn and grow means they are often willing to take on tasks that more experienced professionals may overlook or consider mundane.
However, interns generally have raw talents that need to be refined. Their career success does not only depend on their skills or work rate but also on the type of guidance and mentorship they receive.
That’s why a carefully thought-out internship program is valuable to the growth of any marketing intern.
You need the best practices to groom effective interns and make the best use of their talents.
This article covers different strategies for guiding and mentoring marketing interns to harness their full potential.
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Insights About Marketing Interns
Before we drum up different ways to make an intern a seasoned professional, let's go through some basics about marketing interns.
The concept of internships goes as far back as the medieval period when artisans would take on apprentices to learn their trade. They would train young people and help them earn admission to a guild that supervises the apprenticeship.
However, many apprenticeships in the past would provide sustenance and shelter, unlike modern internships, where individuals are usually responsible for their own expenses.
Internships in various fields, including marketing, began to gain popularity in the United States in the mid-20th century.
The Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (FLSA) was introduced in the country and granted citizens the right to overtime and minimum wage. However, in 1947, the Supreme Court ruled that a company was not required to pay railway brakemen for their week-long training program. The decision established a loophole that employers later used to justify unpaid internships.
But unpaid internships today have no competitive advantage and cost companies valuable talent.
Here are some statistics about interns in the US today:
- The average hourly wage for interns in the United States is $18, according to Salary.com. However, this number can vary between $16 and $21, depending on the industry, company, and location.
- In 2020, 56.3% of graduating seniors participated in an internship, up from 50.2% in 2011, according to the NACE.
- According to a survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, 51.8% of eligible interns, on average, were converted to FTE
- Another NACE survey found that internal interns (young graduates who interned with an organization) are 16% more likely to gain full-time employment than external interns (young professionals who interned at a different firm) after one year
Recognizing the Value of Interns
Marketing interns play an essential role in a marketing department, and their contribution can be significant for several reasons:
Fresh perspectives: Marketing interns bring a fresh perspective to the department. They are typically young and have grown up in a digital age. As a result, they are well-versed in the latest technology, marketing trends, and social media platforms. They can bring new ideas and approaches to the table, which can help the department stay innovative and relevant.
Help with tasks and projects: Interns can provide valuable support in completing tasks and projects. They can help with research, content creation, data analysis, social media management, event planning, and other tasks that are time-consuming but essential for a successful marketing campaign.
Cost reduction: Hiring interns can be cost-effective for marketing departments, especially for small businessƒes and startups. While modern internships are paid, interns receive lower salaries than full-time employees. That said, their contributions can still be significant.
Increased productivity: By undertaking routine tasks that would otherwise hinder the team's progress, interns can contribute to an overall increase in productivity. Consequently, the team can work more efficiently towards meeting its deadlines and achieving its objectives.
Potential talent pipeline: Marketing internships can also be a way for companies to identify potential talent. When companies provide a positive experience, interns may be more likely to apply for a full-time position with the company in the future. This recruitment strategy can save time and resources in recruiting and training new employees.
These reasons show why companies always maintain an influx of interns even after converting or training the previous batch.
How to Get the Best Out of Marketing Interns
Simply having interns present in the workplace isn't enough to derive any meaningful benefits; the ability to guide and utilize their unique skills and perspectives can lead to significant gains for both the marketing team and the interns themselves.
Now, let’s cover different ways you can help your marketing interns maximize their potential.
Establish an Internship Program
It’s not a good idea to hire interns and put them to work right away. Instead, you should develop a program to provide a structured learning process that facilitates their development.
Setting up an effective program requires planning and a well-defined strategy that will benefit everyone.
Define your program goals
Before planning your marketing internship program, you must define your program goals. What do you hope to achieve? Do you want to attract top talent to your organization to boost productivity? Do you want to train your firm’s next generation of marketers? Define your goals so that you can accurately measure the success of your program.
Identify the skills you want to teach
After establishing your program objectives, it's important to determine the specific skills that you intend to impart to your interns. By doing so, you can design a well-organized program that delivers a complete educational opportunity to your interns. Moreover, this will aid you in choosing appropriate candidates who possess the necessary skills you aim to teach.
Create a clear job description
A well-written job description will help you attract suitable candidates. Be specific about the skills and experience you are looking for, the job duties and responsibilities, and the length of the internship.
Define different developmental stages and levels
Breaking the program into different levels allows you to track the progress of your interns, manage goals and expectations, and encourage engagement. This strategy also allows you to know when an intern is ready to take on more challenging and sensitive roles.
Curate a program brochure
Your interns are looking to gain practical experience and learn new skills. Develop a comprehensive training program brochure covering everything your program offers. These offerings can include hands-on training, mentoring, and feedback. You should also provide your interns with opportunities to attend conferences, seminars, and other industry events. This document can help you attract top talent.
Consider your budget
Your internship program won’t be sustainable if you take on more than your budget can handle. So, your budget must inform your decisions and strategies when you create your internship program and implement specific policies. For example, things like the number of interns and mentors to hire, where to source new hires, compensation, and work tools should be budget-friendly.
Assign suitable mentors
To establish a successful content marketing intern team, it's crucial to have dedicated mentors who are passionate about teaching. These individuals should be willing to roll up their sleeves on day one, dive into the nitty-gritty of the interns' projects, address their queries, and direct them to relevant learning resources. Starting an intern program may not be the best idea without mentors who enjoy working with students. That's because students may find it difficult to thrive without proper guidance.
So how do you get the right tutors?
Identify the skills you want to teach and hire accordingly
Identifying the roles you want to fill and the skills you need to teach helps you narrow your mentorship workforce. So, you can decide whether you're also grooming the next batch of leaders or marketing experts and choose workers who have shown those qualities and have those skills
Hire within your means
You don't have to overrun your budget to hire the right mentors. You can start small and scale whenever your internship program successfully helps your business grow.
Make sure interns enjoy individual mentorship
Even if you assign one tutor to multiple mentees, ensure the interns enjoy personalized learning experiences.
Senior interns can be mentors
Interns who have passed different stages of your program and have leadership qualities can help new hires. They can show the new batch how to settle in and serve as examples and motivation.
Offer a competitive salary
A competitive salary will help you attract top talent to your internship program. Consider paying your interns a stipend or hourly wage that reflects the value they bring to your company.
There are different principles to employ to ensure you're paying the right wages.
Research market rates
Start by researching market rates for marketing internships in your industry and region. The data you acquire will give you a good idea of what other companies are offering. That way, you can determine a fair and competitive salary range.
Quality over quantity
Don't let your need for hiring more manpower reduce your prospect of engaging top talent. If your budget can't handle the burden, reduce the number of hires for your program.
Offer other benefits
In addition to a competitive salary, you can also offer other benefits to make your internship program more attractive. The benefits could include things like flexible work hours, professional development opportunities, and networking events.
Emphasize the value of the internship
While interns are typically paid less than full-time employees, it's important to emphasize the value of the experience they will gain during their time with your company. Make it clear that the skills and knowledge they acquire will be valuable assets as they continue their careers in marketing.
Set clear goals and expectations
Setting clear goals and expectations for marketing interns is crucial to ensure they have a productive and positive experience during their internship and help your company achieve its marketing objectives.
There are different ways to make sure interns are focused.
Identify specific tasks and projects
Identify specific tasks and projects that will make up each intern's responsibilities. These assignments should be related to the purpose of the internship and should provide the intern with meaningful work experience. For example, the intern could create social media content, conduct market research, or analyze website analytics.
Set measurable goals
Setting specific, measurable goals ensures you can evaluate an intern's progress and success. These goals could include achieving a number of social media followers, conducting a number of customer interviews, or increasing website traffic by a specific percentage.
Make sure the goals are reasonable
While pushing interns beyond their limits to build resolve and discipline is commendable, ensure you set reasonable goals. To do that, you must understand their limits and ensure you're stretching them within reason. Assign tasks you know they can handle, even if it means doing a bit more work than they're used to. However, make sure you're not overworking them.
Establish a timeline
Set a timeline for the internship and communicate it clearly to the intern. This will help them understand the scope of their responsibilities and plan their work accordingly.
Encourage creativity and independence
Encouraging interns to think creatively and bring fresh perspectives to marketing campaigns will boost their confidence and make them feel valued. They'll begin to see themselves as part of the team and will be motivated to work harder.
According to studies, workers who have more autonomy will enjoy their work better and increase productivity.
But there are ways to achieve that.
Objectively evaluate their contributions
When interns bring contributions and new ideas, be open to them. Evaluate those ideas and brainstorm with them to check if it's viable. You should avoid dismissing new ideas out of hand because they look unorthodox at first glance.
Provide a clear understanding of expectations
Before assigning tasks, ensure the intern understands the project's goals, objectives, and timelines.
Invite them to brainstorming sessions
Allowing interns to participate in brainstorming sessions will help them develop their creative thinking skills. It will also provide opportunities to contribute to the marketing team and enhance their professional growth.
Give them meaningful projects
Assign interns projects that are important to the company and that allow them to use their skills and creativity. This will give them a sense of ownership and purpose and help them to develop their skills.
While interns need a healthy dose of close supervision, micromanagement is one pitfall that you should avoid. Tell interns what to do and how to do it every step of the way defeats the purpose of any internship program, especially in marketing. The goal is to groom independent and creative thinkers, and micromanagement makes it almost impossible to achieve.
Instead of constantly looking over their shoulders, ensure you clearly communicate each task’s expectations, conduct non-intrusive check-ins, encourage them to provide regular updates, ask questions, and be open to new ideas.
You also have to invest in your interns by providing all the tools they need to succeed. These resources shouldn’t start and stop at work devices and subscriptions to work-related tools. Instead, it should also include educational materials, access to top executives in the company for training, and networking opportunities.
Track their progress and productivity
Tracking an intern's productivity and progress will help you ensure they're meeting their internship objectives, show you areas where they may need help, confirm when they're ready for more responsibilities, and keep them accountable.
There are different ways to track these data points.
Schedule regular check-ins with the intern to discuss their progress, provide feedback, and identify any areas for improvement. These check-ins can be formal meetings or informal conversations, depending on the nature of the work.
Leverage tech tools
You can use task management software to track the intern's progress by evaluating how fast they finish tasks and how well they communicate and collaborate.
A time tracker can also help you to monitor task completion rates, work patterns, and productivity.
Use performance metrics
Using performance metrics to track the intern's progress and productivity can include using data points such as key performance indicators and peer reviews.
Recognize their contributions
A study published in 2021 found that personalized rewards such as certificates, public recognition, and thank-you notes can motivate workers and increase work engagement. The principle also works for interns, perhaps even more.
Since interns are new professionals starting out their careers, they need a lot of reassurance to help validate their importance and build morale. So, ensure you always recognize their input whenever they reach a milestone or offer valuable contributions.
There are different ways to recognize interns. You can use monetary incentives, personalized letters and certificates, public praise, promotional gifts, and even promotions in the shape of more responsibilities.
A study published in the International Journal of Selection and Assessment found that the more feedback an employee or employer receives, the better. As it turns out interns, feedback is more critical for interns than other, more experienced workers.
Since they’re under mentorship, they require consistent evaluation to show them where they need to improve and when they’re on the right path.
So, ensure your mentors always communicate their observations with interns, leaving out no detail. It’s also good practice to ask interns about their perspectives on their performance.
Successful marketing interns are great for everyone
Ultimately, a successful internship program is a win-win for the marketing intern and the company. By prioritizing the well-being and development of your interns, you can future-proof your marketing department and remain competitive.