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Tips on Working With an Intern/Employees For First-Time Supervisor?

Compiled and edited by Julie Tereshchuk


Dear Mentors,

I just got promoted into a supervisory role. Any tips? I’ll have an intern and two FT staff reporting to me.

Are there differences in supervising an intern versus a staffer?

Yours, New Boss


Dear New Boss,

The key to successful internship programs for everyone involved is being organized. Find out what the interns are doing at school and ensure you give them something from which they’ll learn towards their careers. It could be as simple as making phone calls, using excel, or managing websites.

Be project-oriented so that they are not waiting for you to give them something to do every day and they have something to show for their portfolios.

Develop a task list at the beginning to help them know what they will be doing and have them add to it as you give them more to do, that way he or she will be able to ask about prioritizing if there is too much, and you’ll be able to keep track of what you want done.

Finally, be clear on your expectations both in terms of days and hours per week, working in the office or remotely, and dress code.

This article by me on internships (series of three in one) may be useful:

Intern Programs – Steps for Success – three part series. It has a general part, a part for employers and a part for interns, co-written with my interns at the time.


Jane Baxter Lynn


Dear New Boss,

Congratulations on the promotion!

As a new supervisor, there are changes ahead for you. Your thought process is a good place to start.

To lean on sports references, you are no longer just one of the team or even the star quarterback. Now you are the coach.

Begin learning the company’s goals for your department and understanding what results in the best work from your former co-workers. Ensure that everyone (you, your boss and your team) shares the same definition of “best work.” Clarify and reinforce goals, targets and timelines. Get out of your team’s way and let them do their best without micromanaging. Most people want to do good work and helping them understand what success looks like will go a long way. Celebrate when you get there!

As for interns, goals and expectations are extremely important and often overlooked by managers. Interns are not just here to pick up the slack. You owe them an opportunity to help start and advance their careers. Otherwise, they would be called “cheap part-timers who will be here for the summer” instead of interns.

With each new intern, meet one-on-one to set expectations for learning and accomplishments. Make sure they know who to ask if they have questions. Ideally, you will be able to give interns a project or assignment that they can complete during their time with you. The completed project will become part of their portfolio and give you the basis of future recommendations.

Best of luck and please come back to “Ask a Mentor” with more questions.


Sandra Kleinsasser


Dear New Boss,

The only advice I have is not to email your team during their off hours.


Maura Thomas


Dear New Boss,

Set clear deadlines (use a task list, and make sure it is updated) and expectations (response time, working hours, dress code, email style etc.)

Be clear and detailed in the tasks you assign. Do not assume that just because someone says they understand, that they actually do.

Train your staff/interns how to be proactive and how to follow up.

Set a regular schedule for meeting with your staff/interns. (Face-to-face or via Skype, if possible.)

Congrats on the promotion!


Julie Tereshchuk