12 Tips for Training Your Summer Interns

summer interns

Summer interns can be an invaluable resource for a small business. But although these bright young college kids are ready to tackle challenges, they’re likely inexperienced in the business world and won’t automatically integrate with your team.

So to find out how other entrepreneurs were successfully training their interns for the summer, we asked 12 founders from Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) the following question:

“Name your best tip for training summer interns as seamlessly and quickly as possible.”

Here’s what YEC community members had to say:

1. Plan Ahead

“Have a plan and lay it out clearly before they begin. Copying summer interns on emails prior to their start date has proven to be helpful. Also, ensure they have someone to shadow so they can hit the ground running. ” ~ Ashley Mady, Brandberry

2. Make Everything Transparent

“Provide summer interns with complete transparency on company initiatives, even if it doesn’t relate to their job spec or day-to-day tasks. I’ve found companies hold back on what they share with interns. But if you provide the same level of transparency you provide employees, interns tend to learn quicker, feel more tied into the organization and empowered to work harder on their projects.” ~ Andrew Fayad, eLearning Mind

3. Have Them Write the Training Program

“We have had over 300 summer interns go through our program. To do this easily, you have to train the first intern and have their only job be to write up everything you taught them. Then have the second and third intern go through it and correct it with you. By the fourth, you have a perfect intern training manual.” ~ Vanessa Van Edwards, Science of People

4. Give Them Homework

“Before our summer interns start, we ask them to familiarize themselves with certain topics. That way, when they start, they have a good understanding of what tasks they will have and what they are expected to do.” ~ Michael Quinn, Yellow Bridge Interactive

5. Automate Training With a Wiki

“Use an internal wiki program such as confluence to put all of your training in one easily accessible place online. Our training is a mix of step-by-step documents and videos so that new summer interns can go through the materials and train themselves. The live training time is devoted to Q&A instead of walking through the same tasks over and over again. ” ~ Laura Roeder, LKR Social Media

6. Know Their Previous Experience

“Just like any other form of learning, training is most effective when you know your audience. Discussing an intern’s topical experience in advance will help allocate your training time and resources while avoiding redundancy and poor assumptions.” ~ Sam Saxton, Salter Spiral Stair and Mylen Stairs

7. Throw Them Into Customer Service

“Everyone at Modify, from our CMO on down, started in customer service. While we share a lot of onboarding material, the quickest way to get someone to learn what we’re all about is to get them working directly with customers. They learn our systems, our product line and what it takes to turn customers into fans.” ~ Aaron Schwartz, Modify Watches

8. Put Everything in Writing

“Your mission. Their mission for the summer. Expectations. Goals. Deadlines. Summer interns will most likely be initially overwhelmed by the pace of your team, so putting things in writing provides reference points you can both use to ensure accountability and integration. And yes, charge them with doing most of the writing to validate whether they comprehend the outcomes from your discussions.” ~ Emily Eldridge Holdman, PeopleKit

9. Keep Them in the Loop

“Rather than just assigning tasks, make sure your team takes the time to explain the larger picture (even when they might not be there to see the full project through). By doing so, they will gain a better understanding of the business and will be better suited to contribute the the company in more substantial ways.” ~ Oisin Hanrahan, Handybook

10. Work With Their Interests

“Interns shine when they’re asked to do things they’re passionate about. Spend time gauging their interests in different aspects of your business and train them in those areas for the best results! ” ~ Alexis Wolfer, TheBeautyBean.com

11. Have Them Shadow an Employee

“Have them shadow a person that does a job similar to what they will be doing. It will give the intern a chance to take notes and ask questions about what they are expected to do. It will also help them to establish a relationship with someone within the company that they can go to in the future with questions.” ~ Phil Laboon, Eyeflow Internet Marketing

12. Toss Them Right In

“The deep end is the best place to learn to swim, after all. Make sure they feel comfortable asking plenty of questions, then let them loose on a project. Communication is key, so be sure to give plenty of feedback and allow lots of space for their own ideas and comments — a fresh pair of eyes can be invaluable!” ~ Marvin Amberg, Caseable

Interns Photo via Shutterstock


The Young Entrepreneur Council The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world's most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.

3 Reactions
  1. You really have to be quite hands-on when training summer interns as they can be quite hard to guide if they don’t have a task list to begin with. You can maximize the use of their time by giving them enough to do for the day and giving them proper feedback on what they are doing.

  2. Great! Thanks for sharing. Interns are valuable assets for any organization, but finding the right interns and then training them is quite a headache from an organization’s point of view. When it comes to training, I like the idea of writing a training program and storing it in one place. Self learning by interns saves a lot of time and efforts of the employees which they can use for other important stuff; this saves an organization from losses and increase productivity as well. We have been doing the same, using clintra.

  3. I have been an intern before and it was fun and challenging at the same time, you need to choose wisely and you must love the work you chose before anything else. Do not be afraid to make mistakes and ask questions, you can suggest if you think you have a great idea