How to make sure your internship isn’t the one everybody complains about

“All I did was do coffee runs and it was such a valuable experience!” (Said no interns, ever.)

Internships are about helping someone learn about their future industry, not scoring yourself a free coffee runner or envelope-stuffer. Seeing as the mid-year University break is here, some of you probably have eager interns knocking at your door. We thought it this was an ideal time to get scoop on how to offer an awesome internship experience (which can help you out as well), so we spoke to an expert: our very own extraordinary intern.

Do unto your intern as you would have them do unto you.
Think about the role you’re providing- is it an internship you would find worthwhile? Your interns should have the opportunity to contribute to and work on projects and tasks that have an impact rather than having them remember the office’s coffee order.

By shifting the focus from such menial tasks, you’re offering your intern value for their time as well (Win, win!) by helping them develop relevant skills to the workforce and experience to start building up their resumes. Start off providing small and less significant tasks and gradually build upon these as new skills are learned. Briefs may then become more challenging as your intern learns the in’s and out’s of the workplace.

Up-skilling your intern is valuable, however your company can’t rely on their sales efforts to make its numbers for the month! There are plenty of local laws and restrictions around what you can-and-cannot have your intern do for you, so research carefully before taking them on.

Structure is Key.
It’s essential that your internship program have structure so that your interns aren’t sitting finishing a task and immediately needing to check in with you for the next job (all those disruptions add up over the course of the day!) Think in terms of projects and ‘back-up tasks’ for them to move onto when they’ve finished their main job.

If you’re a big enough company to offer a large internship program, you also allow the opportunity for your interns to form a network with others, allowing more group collaboration on projects.

If focusing in on detail is more your thing, smaller programs involving only one or two interns can also be beneficial for more one-on-one training and greater responsibility.

The key to dealing with difficult clients

Why are they being a jerk to you?
Whether it’s fair or not, difficult customers are only difficult to you because they’re unhappy with the product or service you’ve provided them. Although there’s always going to be the odd person who’s unhappy no matter what you do, we’ve put together a couple of strategies to help you deal with those

Although there’s always going to be the odd unreasonable person who’s unhappy no matter what you do, we’ve put together a couple of strategies to help you deal with those clients who make you tense up as soon as you hear they're on the other end of the phone.

Ask them why they’re unhappy.
“I’m not getting results…” isn’t a good enough answer.
Dig a little deeper and ask for measurable, specific reasons. Also, ask them what results they would have been happy with. Now you’ve got something to aim for next time around.

Even your client’s answers show wildly unrealistic expectations, this is still a great opportunity to use comparable cases to show them why.

Use your words and be solutions-driven.
Careful vocab choice can help steer your clients from dumping their unhappiness on you, to working towards a mutually agreeable solution. Be assertive and clear in your conversations with a difficult client, but don’t reciprocate their anger. Some of our favourites:

Acknowledge & repeat their key concerns back to them, so you can be sure you’re both on the same page.

Preface statements with “As I’m sure you can appreciate…” to soften the blow when you need to disagree with your client.

Use solution-focused dialogue. “If this were to change next time, would you be satisfied?”

Always work towards giving your clients the confidence that you’ve actually solved their problems and that you aren't just talk.

Don’t say: “We won’t deliver late again.”
Do say: “We’ve now updated our supply chain which has reduced our turnaround time by half, I’m confident this will solve any issues with late delivery going forward.”

Keep it in writing, keep them updated.
A lot of unhappy clients are made more unhappy when they feel like they’re in the dark about their own project. Even though you’re dealing with a bunch of different people, they’re only dealing with you, and it’s sometimes hard for them to remember they’re not the centre of your universe.

Clearly document everything you agree on and complete for your with your clients, and keep them updated moving forward. Haven’t got any news for them right now, but it’s been a while since you last chatted? Drop them a quick email. For example:
“Nothing new to report right now, we’re still waiting on that fabric shipment, but still comfortably within our projected timelines. Will update you once all arrives and we get started.”

A literal 20-second time investment might have just saved you a stressed phone call from your client two days from now.

Bye, Felicia.
If all else fails, boot ‘em and don’t feel bad about it.

Of course it sucks a little losing some of your revenue, but if your one difficult client is taking up the same amount of your time as 5 of your other clients, it’s time to tell them to hit the road (politely and professionally) and use all that free time to score less painful folk to deal with (or give your deserving clients even better service than you can right now).

Spotlight on: Hannah McMullin from .hid the label

Despite recently launching a label, planning a new collection and having a bunch of other projects on the go, emerging designer and all-around lovely person Hannah McMullin of .hid the label makes time every day for tea and cuddles with her cat.  Those are daily rituals we can support.

What’s on your desk right now?

So, I don’t really have a desk at the moment...I converted my garage into a studio which has a large 3m table that sometimes functions as a desk - any flat surface that can hold a laptop or a notebook works well enough. I do a lot of my computer and office based jobs from the living room because it’s warmer than in the garage.

What did your last 24 hours look like?

As .hid is just starting out I 'm still working freelance for a couple of other people, so my last 24 hours involved lots of different things.

I have been coordinating with a client for a delivery and collection, talking with a new client about their project, creating invoices, answering emails, sewing stock for my collection, and dreaming of what is to come for next season - I am really anxious to get next season underway so that will be a big focus for my next 24 hours.

I always make time for a cup of tea and a cuddle with my cat.

Do you have a go-to ‘work wardrobe’?

I go through phases of dressing. Sometimes I will out lots of effort in constructing an outfit and other times it will be whatever is on the floor. I definitely have some go to ensembles that I wear over and over again.
It’s pretty cold in the studio at the moment so I have to rug up to keep warm. I am loving wearing the long sleeve skivvies from this season in the black wool blend fabric as a base layer. With a big cozy jumper and jeans. It’s all about staying warm and comfortable when I am working right now, but I am really looking forward to when the weather gets a tiny bit warmer so I can rock the culottes from the collection.

If someone could only buy one new piece of clothing next season, what should it be and why?

A lovely dress that is comfortable enough to wear all day, but nice enough that if you add the right shoes and accessories doesn’t look out of place at night either. There is a midi dress I am dreaming up for next season that I can’t wait to spend my summer days in.

Can you tell us about the first piece of fashion you ever loved?

When I was a little girl I loved dresses. It was almost impossible for mum to get me into anything that wasn’t a dress. My favourite part of wearing a dress was spinning around so the skirt flared out. I distinctly remember absolutely adoring wearing a long sleeved, collared denim dress with a gathered skirt and little flowers embroidered on the front.

It was amazing and if I had a daughter I would definitely still dress her in it today.


Highlights: Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia 2016

Welcome to Days 1 & 2 of MBFWA 2016. Part of our coverage of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia 2016.

Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia 2016: Daily Edit - Day's 1 & 2. from Flaunter on Vimeo.