My First College Intern: Lessons Learned & Future Plans

Remember back in July when I mentioned the intern I was working with this fall?

She and I just finished up last week. 😱

Can you believe it?! Time flies, man.

Katelyn, a junior at one of the local universities (English major) signed on in August to work with me over the course of the semester. She’s getting into finals in the next few weeks, so we wrapped things up right around Thanksgiving.

(I had a picture of her I was going to insert here but I took it when she wasn't looking and it looked so effin creepy...I had to take it out.)

Anyway...I promised to share my experience on this front as a first-timer, so let’s get to it, shall we?

The setup

Over the course of the internship, she and I met up in person once a week for an hour or two for co-working. She worked on one assignment per week on average, and we emailed throughout the week or used Google Docs to address questions that came up in between our meetings.

The majority of the internship was self-directed so she could work on her own whenever it was convenient for her--she just had to meet deadlines throughout the week. (A good taste of freelance life, ya know?)

Onboarding

The onboarding materials I put together were a really helpful jumping off point, serving as a crash course in everything from content marketing to creating strong, useful blog content. They included my general expectations around deliverables, too.

She said that having all of this stuff down in writing was helpful in case she ever needed to refer back to it--which she did often, especially in the first few weeks.

Expectations

I’ll be honest: It’s been about eight years since I was in the the intern role, so it was hard for me to remember what it felt like coming into that situation.

I’d forgotten what it was like to have a full class load and extracurriculars, so one of the most eye-opening things for me was that she had less time available in her week than I expected. It wasn’t an issue--just a mental adjustment on my end of things. We decided to bump down her hours from the initial 8-10 a week to 5-7. (And yes, of course she was paid!)

I also had to put myself in her shoes a bit perspective-wise. She was coming in fresh, basically starting from scratch as far as content marketing goes. There were a few times I had to step back and remind myself of that--slowing down projects or providing more detail.

One of the biggest things I realized fairly quickly was that she sometimes wasn’t sure what questions to ask, so during our weekly meetings, I made sure to ask for feedback and pose questions to her, adding clarity wherever and whenever possible.

This seemed to be helpful. Without a ton of context to work from, she said it was nice to have someone there to jump in and add detail rather than aimlessly Googling to try to figure something out.

Assignments

I wanted to make sure that the experience was valuable and interesting for her, so one of the first things we did was talk about her interests around writing, editing, and researching.

She indicated that she was most interested in editing, so this is where we focused most of her time and energy over the course of the semester. She worked on a variety of different types of subject matter so she could experiment and see what she found most interesting.

I’m SO glad that I was working on a post for Copyhackers during this period so she got to see a few rounds of Joanna’s expert-level edits. This was an awesome hands-on way for her to witness an A+ editor in action, noting what changes she suggested, the holes she spotted, etc.

We spent a week or two talking through Jo’s edits and working together to make a good post a great post.

Improvements

99% of the improvements I thought of came from my end of the equation. The biggest thing was that I think we both could’ve benefitted from a bit more structure.

She did like that she was able to self-direct her learning and experiences quite a bit, but I feel like she could’ve learned more if I had a structured plan in place, with tasks and objectives laid out for each week.

That way we could be sure she was getting a well-rounded internship and covering all of the bases, rather than just working on whatever I sent her way/felt was do-able for her expertise level on a week-by-week basis. If I have another intern in the future, this is something I will make sure to create ahead of time.

Final Thoughts

Overall, I think both of us benefited from the experience, learning a lot about collaboration, the supervisor/student dynamic, and training in general. I’m glad to have done it (and I think she was, too!)

P.S. In case you missed it, here's the freelancer gift guide I helped put together!

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