NASPO’s Internship Program began in summer 2017 with three pilot states and four interns. From there, it grew to eight states for summer 2018. Among the eight states participating this summer, 14 interns from NASPO academic partner schools have been hired. Our internship program works with state procurement offices across the country to build meaningful experiences for college students over their summer term.
The students from academic partner schools are impressive! They come from top-tier Supply Chain programs across the country- the closest field of study to public procurement. Since the program’s inception, we have honed the process and continue to improve for both the participating states and their students. We have highlighted the experience via webinars and conference sessions, leading to an increase in excitement and interest from our state members.
Below is the experience of Rei Llazani, who took a NASPO-sponsored internship with the State of Utah in the summer of 2017. Please enjoy what Rei has to say about his NASPO internship, and his tips for creating a great experience for your summer interns. For Part I of this series, please click here.
Creating Better Internships by Rei Llazani
One of the greatest lessons I have learned is the importance of leveraging thin margins – for example: you do not need to win a marathon five minutes ahead of the next person behind you, or a basketball game by 30 points, or receive 50%+ returns on your investments. All “winning” requires is winning that race by a split-second, beating your opponents in that game of basketball by only a point, and simply investing better than market averages. In certain circumstances, “the more, the merrier” creed ought to be considered (although be cautious – “A bad quality is a good quality carried in excess”), but spending some time to analyze overlooked areas, which often allow for marginal improvements, may yield great results and create significant differences in the bottom line.
For a concrete example, internships are a gold mine that enable the private & public sector to “leverage the margins”. Leaders ought to utilize an intern’s fresh perspective and strengths to advance their department or company ahead – faster and further. Simply put, internship positions offer leaders and managers access to unique and new ideas, a chance to revitalize their culture and community, and receive concrete work at a relatively low cost. In turn, interns receive the golden benefits of experience and advancing their skillset and mind. It is a match made in heaven.
Often, the advice leaders receive when hiring interns is, “Don’t make them do mindless busy work.” This is absolutely right. However, there’s more that could be done to create an exceptional experience for both the leaders and interns.
As a former intern myself with the procurement division for the State of Utah in Salt Lake City, in conjunction with NASPO’s Pilot Internship Program, I spoke at NASPO’s Academic Forum discussing the intern perspective. I was asked by several chief procurement officials what type of elements interns look for in an internship experience. The following is my take on what could improve the experience, perhaps just by that second or one point:
Be a resource to your interns
Now that millennials make up the largest population in the workforce, you will have millennials in your internship programs. There has been a lot of talk about millennials and it is important to understand who they are and what their needs are. Interestingly, the number one thing millennials indicate as priority in a job is, “Am I good at the role?”, followed by, “Is this work meaningful to me?”, and finally, salary considerations.
Millennials want to succeed in the work they do – be available as a resource and help your interns produce exceptional work.
Listen to your interns
New generation, new upbringings, new environments, and new ideas. “The greatest things that will come to you are the rush of new ideas.” Since interns bring an outside perspective, which is critical in things that we may overlook since we are often tied with day-to-day activities, they may often see and expose beneficial considerations like improvement processes or weak spots in systems – leverage their new ideas.
Help them have fun
Many interns will come to you from out-of-state. In other words, they are new to the city and probably don’t know anybody there. Why does this matter? Because what the intern does outside of the office after hours and on weekends will affect their performance inside the office.
Communicate and engage with your intern about the city lifestyle, what to do, places to see, etc. Ideally, connecting them to the younger crowd in the office makes a bigger impact. This is also useful if you intend to extend a full-employment offer to your intern at the end of the internship.
Know what to expect from your intern