Living and Giving

Ask Pamela: How do I Manage Interns?

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\”Ask Pamela\” is a collection of real life conversations between Pamela Hawley, an established social entrepreneur, and Mike Del Ponte, an up-and-coming social entrepreneur. Pamela was a co-founder of VolunteerMatch and is the founder and CEO of UniversalGiving. Mike Del Ponte is founder and CEO of Sparkseed.

Great news! Thanks to your advice, we found office space in San Francisco and the whole team is here.  I\’m now finding that the learning curve is steep for new managers. What advice can you give me about managing interns? I want to make it a valuable experience for them and for Sparkseed. <4:27pm July 9, 2009>


Mike, this is a big one and we\’ll have to talk about this over the long-term.  For now, read this article entitled \”Rotten? Or Right? Internships that Rule\” on my blog.  But what I would say, is that whether it be volunteers, interns, consultants or employees, you must keenly listen to and assess each person to understand two things: how they want to grow and contribute, and how that fits with Sparkseed\’s goals and vision.  You can never let go of this. People management is ongoing.  You must always commit to caring, each and every day, about their growth and Sparkseed\’s growth, always looking for the overlapping area of relevance.

I think it\’s amazing that some of your interns are starting to manage their own projects. Make sure you strike a balance between clear direction and independent ownership. It\’s not easy.  You want to empower people, but also let them know there is a community behind them.

Tactically, do ensure you begin compiling a manual of helpful tips.  Your interns can help you build this and add to it.  Let them contribute based on their experience, which is so very relevant.  But first, I would start with Job Descriptions for each one. Speak with them about their role, agree to defined activities, and have them write the description. Then you know the intern has \”heard\” the same conversation as you.  Keep this Job Description \’live\’ and \’active.\’  It is not to be put away, but added to regularly. Review every quarter.

As you can see… there is a lot more we can cover here. This was a great question. Keep them coming!