The one tool that can optimize your intern project workflow

Managing the part-time schedules, varying skill levels and alternating projects for multiple interns can be hard, but adding a single visual management tool to your office can make it simpler.

Enter: the Kanban board.

The board gets its genius from the Kanban system, which communicates the status, nature and context of work all in one physical space. This type of tool is especially valuable for efficiency and workflow because it plays on the natural practice of the brain, which processes visual information 60,000 times faster than text.

Creating a Kanban board in your office serves as a way for interns to map their individual workflow as well as—at a glance—show the team who is working on what and when.

How it started

Although the method has been popularized by Silicon Valley startups in recent years, the Kanban technique stems from a Toyota production system developed in the 1940s. Assembly line workers displayed colored cards to notify workers downstream about demand for parts. Kanban is the Japanese word for “visual signal” or “card.”

Because of the highly visual nature of the method, workers were able to see what work needed to be done and when, as well as take measures to maximize efficiency and minimize waste on the line.

What it is

To create a Kanban board to manage intern projects in your space, hang up a physical whiteboard, get some dry erase markers and stockpile sticky notes. If you work remotely, consider building an online Kanban board using an online platform like Trello.

At its simplest, the board can be divided into three columns: “waiting,” “in progress” and “completed.” The type and number of sections can be changed depending on the project needs of your company. The board at Dittoe Public Relations includes an urgent column to signify projects that need the immediate attention of interns. There are also rows that divide projects up by the day of the week for further organization.

After the Kanban grid is laid out, start by having employees stick color-coded sticky notes with projects for interns in the first column. Each one should include the name of the employee who placed the project on the board, the date assigned, the deadline and a brief description of the project at hand.

To break it down even further, use various colors to signify different types of projects, such as blue notes for writing and red ones for research.

When beginning a new project, interns should write their name on the note selected and meet with the employee who placed the sticky on the board to get complete project details. Interns can then move the sticky into the proceeding sections as they move through the project until complete.

Why your office needs one

This type of workflow management is especially effective for interns and new employees because it allows them to visualize their projects, notice the pace of their work and grow their sense of accountability within the company. A Kanban also creates a sense of transparency — out in the open, the board holds interns accountable for the projects they choose and the deadlines associated with each project.

On the flip side, those who manage interns can use the board to gain valuable insight into their interns’ work. Are employees assigning too many or too few projects to interns? Are there too many writing projects and not enough research projects? Is an intern gravitating towards a certain type of project, and what work can be placed on the board to strengthen their skills in that area?

By creating and utilizing a Kanban board, companies will create a new, visual standard of work not only for your interns – but the entire company.

And besides, finally moving a sticky into the “complete” column after many status updates gives your interns even more satisfaction than crossing a task off their to-do list. Is there anything better than that?

 

Making your mark: How to land the internship of your dreams

For many students, internship is a word heard as early as high school. It’s often associated with making daily coffee runs or working for little to no pay all to gain additional experience outside the classroom. It might not sound great, maybe even a tad depressing, but keep in mind that employers overwhelmingly view strong internship experience as one of the most important factors in hiring for entry-level positions for post grads.

Thankfully, the horror stories of tedious busy work and Starbucks trips aren’t always the norm. Quality internships providing invaluable experience are available; it’s all about knowing where to look and how to position yourself as the best candidate for the job.

Keeping your social media accounts clean, dressing professionally for the interview, and sending thank you notes are the standard tips. We’ve all heard this advice before, and so has all of the competition. The good news is that there are more nuanced steps you can take to enhance your chances of landing a position that will provide you with the skills and experience necessary to succeed in your industry.

Networking

As a student, your professors are key to getting you prepared for the real world, but you won’t make meaningful connections by simply showing up for class. Most professors want to take the time to get to know you, ensuring you are worth their assistance. A well-respected professor in your field can be one of the best references when looking for internships or full-time positions, thus building relationships with them should be a top priority.

But professors aren’t the only ones worth connecting with. Fellow classmates can be just as valuable in connecting with high-level internships.

In the professional world, networking is something many professionals must do to get their foot in the door. Connecting with like-minded people with similar career interests allows for discussions and collaborations that can contribute to professional development and furthering your skills, knowledge and professional circle. Be yourself, be friendly and use any and all of your connections to your advantage to land that next internship!

Higher education

In our contemporary society, higher education is becoming increasingly viewed as a rite of passage rather than a luxury, and those holding bachelor’s degrees are struggling to appeal to employers, especially when up against candidates with master’s and doctorate degrees. With entry-level positions requiring experience, internships are a necessary step in the progression toward working full time.

Stand out from the crowd by continuing to pursue even higher levels of education. Graduate school is more than adding a few letters behind your name and a fancy piece of paper; it’s about continuing to develop – both personally and professionally – so that you’re ready to enter the workforce.

By graduation, you should have a vast collection of professional contacts and relationships, which will be invaluable in assisting with your entry into your dream internship and subsequent career.

Pre-interview process

When applying for internships, it’s imperative to find a way to stand out against other applicants. The committee or hiring manager most likely receives stacks of cookie-cutter resumes, making it easy for yours to get lost in the shuffle.

For starters, learn more about a company’s culture and how it operates by checking out its social media channels, blog posts and website. It is important to fully understand how they project their voice out into the world and how they position themselves in their industry as thought-leaders.

Focus on tailoring your resume and cover letter according to the company’s job description and core values. Find out what they are looking for, and make sure you effectively convey how your strengths align with the company’s goals. Did they say it would be a plus if you had video or photography skills? Be sure to highlight those or even bold them to be seen.

Don’t forget to follow-up. A little bit of persistence can go a long way. Email, tweet, send a carrier pigeon – do whatever it takes to show them that you are dedicated to your future and the future of the company.

Before the interview

Research, research, research. Did the company recently receive any awards or secure a major piece of coverage for a client? Congratulating them in the interview on their recent accomplishments shows you’re not only invested in their success, but that your interest in the company goes beyond just getting paid.

But why should they hire you?

Do some soul-searching, and be prepared to answer why you are truly the best fit for the job. Focus on turning your weaknesses into strengths and showcase your talent in a way that is unique to who you are. The more confidence you have in yourself and your abilities, the better the interview will go.

After the interview

Following the first-round interview, be sure to connect with the recruiter or intern director personally by sending an email or handwritten card thanking them for the opportunity. Use each interview as a learning experience by reflecting on the questions asked and answers given.

Obtaining an internship doesn’t have to be an overly stressful experience. Each scenario is unique, but these tips can help a student not only obtain the position they want, but also the experience that can help land their dream job down the road.

If you’re interested in an internship with Dittoe Public Relations, you can find more details on our internship program.

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