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8 Things You Can Learn From Your Intern

Facebook, Twitter, poker are just a start

4. Transparency. Young people are much less concerned with privacy and boundaries between personal and professional lives. "We had sayings like 'don't air your dirty laundry.' The younger workers collect the laundry and put it out for viewing," said Richards. Talk to them about future problems with too much transparency and about proper boundaries — and consider relaxing and stretching your own.

5. Fun.
"They have a sense of optimism or enthusiasm," said Jacques Aboaf, vice president of strategic development at, a career information website. They believe work is exciting and fun, and they savor the chance to jump into challenges and try out their talents. This attitude can be contagious — and it really can help someone who's been in the same company for 17 years to reengage or refuel personal energy levels.

6. Change. Interns often are good at switching roles in a split second and tackling new and unknown assignments with gusto. Watching this performance may help you embrace adaptability, which is not a universal trait.

7. Thinking big. Some interns have ambitions as big as the sky, unhampered by years of submitting budgets or hearing "no." Give them room to run and aim high — and see if you can soak up some of their aspirations.

8. Relationships. Twentysomethings place a real emphasis on building relationships, not a bad thing to develop at any age. While you may have more experience with saying hello in person than they do, they're more likely to start interactions on Facebook or another online venue.

If you're not sure how to get started talking with the summer crop in your office, find out their interests. Sports, gambling (like poker and March Madness), food, travel and complaining are all multi-generational shared connections, said Richards.

Cleary's advice for older workers: Just take a little time with your interns in their first week on the job. "Try to get to know them. Introduce them to others. Make sure they see they have a vital role."

Cleary herself has switched roles. A month after she graduated from Texas A&M last December, she landed a job as Promise House's volunteer and events coordinator. This summer she will help a new intern learn how to work in a nonprofit environment, and probably pick up a few tips herself.

Vickie Elmer, who writes about business and careers, blogs at

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