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8 Things You Can Learn From Your Intern

Facebook, Twitter, poker are just a start

When Bre Cleary worked as an intern at a Dallas nonprofit, she sometimes sat down with her boss to teach her to use Twitter and Facebook.

See also: Facebook use increases with the 50-plus crowd.

Before the internship with Promise House ended, Cleary had written the book — literally — on using social media to promote the nonprofit, which assists at-risk teens. She created a guidebook with do's and don'ts about Twitter and other online outlets for the staff, some of them novices to tweets, etc.

"We know how to communicate in different ways," said Cleary, whose internship was sponsored by the ExxonMobil Community Summer Jobs Program.

This summer, the hundreds of thousands of interns who are showing up in cubicles and conference rooms across the country can bring a ton to the table for veteran workers.

"Today the younger worker can mentor the older worker on the whole world of technology, the whole world of productivity," said Robin Richards, CEO of Internships.com.

When he started the company a couple of years ago, Richards relied on interns and young employees to help him establish the approach and tools for his own website, which provides information on internships. He learned the importance of reaching out. Their ideas and vision for how the company's website could interact with users "fundamentally transformed … my business model."

So, that 20-year-old from UCLA or Michigan State may be your ticket to learning new tricks and techniques this summer. Here are eight things you can learn from your intern:

1. Intergenerational collaboration. Most interns live with their parents so they know how to relate to their elders, said Richards. Yet you cannot treat them as your own children — they need to be respected as colleagues and given a sense that they are valued in the workplace. If you can develop your ability to work with people of many ages, your ability to stay relevant will soar.

Employers learn social media, Facebook and Twitter from Interns

Younger workers can get you up to speed on social media. — Tom Grill/Getty Images, Age fotostock and Getty Images

2. Social media. Cleary is among myriad young adults who grew up on the Internet. They may clue you in to new tools so you can simultaneously update Twitter, Facebook and other sites — and make your company sparkle online.

"They can show you little tricks and new sites," said Richards, who calls young people "digital natives."

3. Communications. There are so many methods today that you may not yet have tried but your intern has mastered (or already breezed past). Allow yourself to be nudged into text messaging or video calling, or try out an iPad or iPhone.

"It seems like everybody under 24 is a blogger now," said Mark Babbitt, founder and CEO of YouTern.com, another website for interns. They know the "new tools to get the word out," and they're willing to show you the latest apps, tools, sites and approaches.

Next: What else can veteran workers learn from interns? >>

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