RCG Blog To The Point

Define the Line with Interns: Appropriate, Risky, or Inappropriate

Since April I have taken over the responsibility of handling all intern operations in the Boston office. This includes coordinating the postings, interviews, placements, and paperwork required to get students the college credit and PR experience they need before graduating. While this is no small task, it is a manageable one to maintain while still completing my duties as executive assistant.

There is one small challenge that I did not expect.

As a recent college graduate, I’m often interviewing students that are only a few years my junior. As a (now retired) college athlete, I realize that some of my teammates during my four years are now current juniors and seniors—the ages of those I’m interviewing. It’s strange to think that I’m interviewing a teammate and friend I’ve known (maybe a little too well) for two fun years of college.

It also doesn’t help that I also look young for my age. When wrapping up an interview and asking if students have any questions, I sometimes get the dreaded: “Wait, how old are you?” or “How long have you worked here? You look like you could be an intern yourself.” While this could be a good thing when I’m 30, it’s not exactly the most professional or Regan-related question I had in mind.

I pride myself in being an approachable person in the office that coworkers and interns can come to for questions and normal conversation. Yet there seems to be a difficult line to decipher between appropriate conversations with coworkers and interns. Here are a few non work-related conversations/situations I’ve been able to categorize as appropriate, risky, and inappropriate.

Extra-Curricular Activities in Common: Appropriate. Do you and your interns both like exercise? Great—we’ve gone to a few fitness-related client events with our interns and it’s turned out to be a smash. It’s great to be able to apply what we all work on in the office and experience it in a different setting. In this situation, spin, kick-box, and salsa away the day.

Connecting on Social Media: Risky. While it is common for coworkers to connect on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, it can get tricky with interns. Coworkers often use these social media platforms for business and pleasure—but the pleasure always remains appropriate or follower-friendly. Yet interns (and let me remind you, college students), often use Twitter in a less professional way. Interns: do you drunk tweet or cuss about current events or celebrities? Do you like to rag on your friends or retweet satirical accounts? Do you post pictures from the parties you attended this past weekend? If so, I suggest setting your accounts to very private—if it’s a post you wouldn’t want your professor seeing, your bosses at your internship shouldn’t see them either.

Nightlife/Social Activity: Inappropriate. Coworkers are often friends that socialize outside work, which, let’s face it, can include alcoholic consumption. Whether at a party or a bar, it’s okay for coworkers to plan or reminisce of times they spent (if they keep it PG-13). However, as an intern, I highly recommend shying away from these conversations in general. If I were you, I wouldn’t mention (even if just to a fellow intern) that you got trashed this weekend, or you’re hungover from Sunday Funday or Thirsty Thursday. You never know who is in an earshot of that conversation. Don’t ask me what bars I like going to on the weekends, because yes, I could be there on Saturday. Also, please withdraw from sharing your weekend shenanigans. While I’m technically close enough in age to be your friend, or I’m young enough to still remember what it’s like to be in college (and am envious that you’re still enrolled), you need to keep in mind I am still the one that hired you—and, if I might add—can  fire or recommend rehiring post-graduation.

I understand now more than ever that it is hard to draw the line between friendly and professional. In some cases, I feel more comfortable or compatible (not to mention closer in age) with interns than my own coworkers. Regardless, it is important to always remember that as an intern, everyone around you is still a “superior” or supervisor, or boss. Don’t immediately assume that because you’re close in age you can act like buddies—there are still conversations to be kept between you and your friends. If you mention you’re hungover once, we may feel you’re not treating your internship seriously, and won’t consider hiring you down the road.

To be fair, though, I’ll end with a reminder to myself and my coworkers: keep it clear that you are still technically their boss. If you cross the line of what is and isn’t appropriate, interns may think it’s okay to do the same. You don’t want to be thought of as the office party animal just as much as an intern doesn’t want to be considered the wild child.

Young, dazed, but no longer confused,

Kelly

P.S. To view our internship listings, click here (but make sure your social media is in check—we do look!).

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