Okay to Give Interns "Grunt Work" and Other Menial Tasks? - Intern Program Tips

You now know that the majority of intern tasks should not be of a menial or mindless nature. And you know why assigning only the unwanted work will put your internship program at a disadvantage.

But if you're not supposed to saddle your interns with all-day data entry or endless proofreading projects, what types of projects should you assign to interns? Or, in what types of activities might you invite intern participation, or even just allow an intern to come along and learn?

Obviously, intern responsibilities will differ between industries. (A marketing internship won't entail the same set of tasks as a finance internship or fashion internship, for instance.)

However, there are a number of tasks and projects that fall somewhere between making copies and mission critical. And many of these are applicable, in some form or another, to industries across the board.

When brainstorming your list of potential intern projects or responsibilities, use the list below as a jumping-off point.

Consider having an intern...

  • Research the viability of a new program, campaign, or initiative; compile and present statistics.
  • Complete a backburner project that has been bogging down permanent staff.
  • Create a proposal on a potential social media strategy, evaluate various social media platforms, or come up with suggestions for how your current social media strategy might be improved.
  • Critique your company's website...from a user perspective; brainstorm ideas for boosting usability.
  • Propose solutions for a mid-level problem that no one has had time to address.
  • Research and identify the most influential blogs in your industry. Follow them and provide weekly reports.
  • Scan industry media for news items; provide regularly scheduled updates.
  • Accompany employees to client, sales, or other outside meetings; have them take an observer role, but ask for their input and ideas (and answer any questions) after you've left.
  • Evaluate some area of IT functionality (for tech-savvy interns); ask if they see a way to improve efficiency, streamline programs, or cut costs.
  • Take responsibility for some regular task. Even if it's as simple as taking, and placing, the weekly supply order, it will demonstrate follow-through and an ability to take ownership.
  • Prepare a budget.
  • Create support materials, such as charts, graphs, or other visuals.
  • Plan and coordinate an event or meeting.
  • Generate a marketing plan, financial forecast, or other report.
  • Produce a video or slide presentation.
  • Perform a study or survey; analyze and present results.
  • Write internal communications.
  • Compile employee manuals or develop process directions for tasks with high employee turnover.
  • Source goods or search for lower-cost sources for high-volume materials.
  • Clean up a database.
  • Serve as a liaison between the company and clients or vendors (freeing up staff members to communicate on only more crucial issues).
  • Aid in the modification or enhancement of your internship program.
  • Help screen and train replacement interns prior to departure.

The bottom line when it comes to assigning intern tasks is to strike a balance between those activities that will provide a meaningful learning experience and those activities that will increase productivity in the organization.