Consider Remote when Hiring an Intern

Posted on December 13, 2021

person typing on laptop while using phone

Today’s Morning Buzz is by Melissa Cantarero Weiss, Director of Administrative Services, for Wauwatosa, WI. Connect on LinkedIn and Twitter.

What I’m Reading: I am rereading Dune – it is always ah-mazing.

What I’m Watching: The Unforgivable on Netflix – seriously, watch this.

What I’m Listening to: A Spotify playlist called Folk Christmas Music.

We have two part time intern positions in city administration … and we could not get our jobs done without them. On top of that, I really enjoy working with interns, showing them different city services, and ultimately seeing them go on to make their mark in other communities.

In Milwaukee, we have one university with an MPA program. It offers a lot of late afternoon and evening classes, which means that many of the students are working professionals and are not looking for internships. In some of our past recruitments, this has left us without a large applicant pool. Pre-pandemic, this got me asking the question, why an MPA? We worked with interns out of undergrad programs to try that on for size and found that interns enrolled in a master’s program tend to be a better fit for us.

We then pivoted to seeking out interns enrolled in different master’s degree programs – and this has worked well. Interns from different educational programs bring fresh ideas to the table. I find that adding a team member who has a “non-government” perspective to a work group helps us create better outcomes for the community and often more efficient work processes.

This past year, after seeing how successfully we pivoted to remote work during the pandemic, I revisited our intern program and kept asking myself – why does an intern need to live in the area? Most of the work we ask our interns to complete can be done online. Like many cities, we transitioned many workers to remote work over the past two years. There are talented students studying in programs all over the country, right? Fast forward a few months, we posted a remote Administrative Services Intern position and had the largest applicant pool in history. We interviewed many people, and they were impressive. We ultimately hired our first fully remote employee in August. Our intern, Sarah, is an all-star who is completing so much great work for the city – all from another state while completing her MPA.

I will admit we are still learning how to best integrate a fully remote team member into a hybrid team. My biggest takeaway is to be intentional about connecting and communicating. Build in that office water cooler talk. Do you have a chat tool? Use it to connect just as you would with a colleague in the hall or at their desk. Set a time for video one on one meetings and team meetings. Be intentional about building the relationship that happens naturally when you see people in an office. Be sure to keep them up to speed on what is happening in the community and at work – this kind of listening and learning happens naturally at City Hall, but we need to be intentional about it with our remote and hybrid employees.

Has anyone else added fully remote interns or employees to your team? I would love to connect with you to learn about what is working and what you would change to make it even better.

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