“We were particularly impressed by the intelligence, diligence, proactivity, and ability of our intern to hit the ground running.”
How did hosting an intern via the Professional Pathways programme benefit you and your organisation?
We were able to start a project that we have not had the capacity to resource before. We have a successful distributor of our products in America. We want to recruit more of them in other countries and cover other market segments. We jointly developed a list of potential “suspects” as distributors and designed an email campaign to market the idea to them. Our intern did some list research helped by colleagues and contributed to the email messaging. Unfortunately, the email did not work well at all, so we re-planned the campaign using LinkedIn. Our intern helped in drafting a series of initial messages to potential executives and then sent the messages in my name. This approach really surprised us at how well it worked. Lots of CEOs and SVPs in target firms connected with me and got engaged in dialogue. In fact, we have a meeting today in which we may succeed in moving one company in India to agreeing to a pilot project. Our intern was able to participate in the initial face to face (via Teams) meeting with the CEO and COO of the company concerned. We now have electronic dialogues in progress with another 6 or so companies, albeit at earlier stages in the cycle.
Successful completion of this project will benefit my local team because it will help faster recovery from the pandemic shockwave, it will strengthen the resilience of the business and protect jobs. It will increase the staffing levels we will need locally as volume builds up. We also learned a valuable lesson in how to reach senior executives that email does not reach and when they pass us on to their executives to work the detail, we have the means to communicate with them periodically to provide progress updates or to unblock something because we are connected. One of the reasons we made such good progress is that our intern did such a good job in the first two weeks that we kept him on for another three weeks on our payroll, to help continue the momentum that he had started.
How was your experience of hosting a remote working intern?
It worked very well because we are a virtual business anyway and everyone is remote to everyone else, so we have the processes and IT systems to manage it. We have a Wednesday morning Teams meeting with everyone and [our intern] joined those meetings to see everyone else in action and to build a relationship with colleagues. We also did specific project meetings via Teams regularly, so there was a high level of dialogue with myself and colleagues. [Our intern] is very personable, so he built relationships quickly. Immediately before the project started we had a meeting with everyone involved and reviewed the project plan, so we all knew where to start immediately on day 1. We updated the plan regularly as events unfolded. We spoke most days during his time with us.
Given the Professional Pathways internship is 35 hours in total, how would you recommend ensuring both you and your intern(s) gain as much as possible from the experience?
Have a clear project with steps that are realistic to achieve in the time available. We opted for the time to be spread over two weeks to allow downtime while waiting for responses from activities like emailing and sending LinkedIn messages. We made good progress in the first two weeks, but it was always going to be a month-long project for us, so our initial plan was constructed so that [our intern] could achieve some real deliverables, so he had a sense of achievement. We planned admin support from colleagues so that he did not spend time on administrative or clerical tasks that others could do unless it was really necessary. It was important to us to use his brain and education to benefit us, rather than contribute clerical hours that we could resource anyway. In the event, he made sufficient promising progress that we arranged to keep him on for another three weeks to move the project on to more valuable deliverables and hopefully, much greater job satisfaction for him. When it works for the intern, it frequently works for us too!
Why would you recommend Professional Pathways to other employers?
Professional Pathways allows a student with an interest in the field to offer their time and skills and it helps stretched teams to achieve greater impact. We were particularly impressed by the intelligence, diligence, proactivity, and ability of our intern to hit the ground running and complete a wide variety of tasks autonomously. Our donors were delighted by the thoughtful communications.