At Handshake, our mission is to democratize opportunity for all students. We also work with employers to build diversity and inclusion strategies because an overwhelming number of students on Handshake prefer employers who are diverse and have an inclusive culture. That’s why today, we’re sharing our learnings and best practices for supporting interns from underrepresented backgrounds.
Ready to set your interns up for success? We asked Brenda Jin, creator of Crush Your Summer Internship, to share her advice on five ways you can support your interns this summer:
1. Show up
Don’t underestimate the power of just being present, especially for ongoing commitments like weekly one-on-one meetings. Showing up creates an essential foundation for trust. It also creates opportunities for interns to ask questions and get inspired by you, which helps them become more confident and self-sufficient.
2. Get to know your intern
Interns aren’t just here this summer to have a checkbox on their profile. They want to accomplish something to help them launch their career. Make sure you get to know them and understand their motivations! In a recent Handshake Student Survey, nearly 70 percent of student respondents said they would only work for an employer that has built an inclusive company culture, which provides a sense of belonging to all employees, from all backgrounds.
What are their goals? What do they want to learn? Even if they don’t have an answer right away, that’s okay, because when you ask, they start thinking about it!
3. Create a plan and write it down
Summer will be over before you know it. Take the time to plan out the intern experience week-by-week. Write down milestones that contribute to the interns’ goals, and share the plan with them so that you can both be accountable.
4. Find additional support
We often hear from students about how navigating an internship as a first-generation and underrepresented minority presents unique challenges in the workplace, like imposter syndrome or assumptions that their major limits their career options.
Folks from underrepresented backgrounds often start work with fewer connections in the industry, which means less access to information that will help them succeed. Encourage your intern to enroll in the company’s Employee Resource Groups and other community activities. Additionally, introduce them to potential mentors in their desired field and specializations, especially folks outside the organization.
5. Find ways to stay engaged
Your company’s relationship with interns shouldn’t end when the internship does. Even if you don’t have open recs now, find ways to re-engage interns as candidates in the future. Collaborate with other recruiters and hiring managers in your organization to make sure interns stay in your pipeline after they leave.
Proactively supporting your interns will make their experience more welcoming and inclusive — and it very well could make a world of difference in whether interns excel at your company, speak highly of you as an employer, and whether they consider accepting a full-time role at your company in the future.
For more resources on how to further support your interns, check out Crush Your Summer Internship, a free online program that helps interns maximize their summer experience, created by Brenda Jin, a software engineer, and intern mentor.
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