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Why and how we should be fostering emotional intelligence in our interns

The forgotten benefit of internships — emotional intelligence

Internships fascinate me in many ways because, if done well, they can seamlessly integrate new team members into working environments, create a strong sense of teamwork that ties people together against the odds, and encourage positivity, up-beat personalities and concentration on the job.

They are immensely helpful for graduates, providing them with a variety of benefits, including:

  1. An opportunity to learn from an experienced work-place professional who can act as a mentor not only during their internship, but also throughout their career.
  2. Insights into specific industries and sectors, as well as departments within companies, and how they work.
  3. An introduction to the ethical codes, rules and conditions that keep companies operating smoothly.
  4. A great chance to form new relationships.
  5. New responsibilities that build patience, courage and the ability to overcome difficulties.
  6. Potential job offers, either to become permanent full-time employees in the company, or from other organisations.

These are all wonderful things, but the forgotten benefit that I want to highlight in this blog post is ‘emotional intelligence’, because it is often neglected when it comes to internships.

Daniel Goleman, the psychologist who developed the concept of Emotional Intelligence in 1995, identified five key elements: self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy and social skills. In the PR world, I believe that being skilled in these areas is as important to professional success as being able to multitask, handle social media accounts, write a press release or deliver presentations.

Internships should foster all of the five elements of emotional intelligence, also developing other admirable traits like a sense of fun, enthusiasm, optimism, self-confidence, creativity and innovative thinking.

How can companies create internship programmes that foster emotional intelligence?

Emotional intelligence does not simply mean being an emotional person and is in fact completely different from expressing natural emotions like anger, happiness, sadness, or aggressiveness. It goes beyond that to describe the importance of developing emotional awareness about other people, which is an important skill that can strengthen an intern’s capability to fit into a team.

Emotional intelligence is not a natural talent that comes out of nowhere. It must be developed, honed and prioritised, and I believe its focus should be an integral part of internship programmes. When developing a programme for your interns, you can encourage the building of emotional intelligence in five key ways:

  1. Self-reporting: Interns should be asked to fill in reports about how they think they are doing in the company, ranging from their professional progress to how well they are meeting targets and getting along with the team. This exercise builds self-awareness and self-regulation, which are two key elements of emotional intelligence.
  2. Setting targets: Throughout internship programmes, interns must be provided with clear goals to achieve and surpass, because this keeps them motivated, engaged and invested in the company’s wider objectives. Giving them responsibilities also enhances their self-worth by making them feel part of the team.
  3. Volunteer activities: A great way to encourage interns to develop emotional intelligence is to involve them in the company’s CSR and volunteering activities. Working among people of determination or people in need creates a sense of empathy and community spirit by placing the intern’s focus on helping others.
  4. Sports activities: Sport is scientifically proven to build teamwork skills, heighten social interaction, and shake out stress. Why not organise an informal sporting event like a lunchtime football match or yoga session to help interns bond with your team? This sort of activity also helps shy interns to build their social skills.
  5. Rewards: When an intern has worked hard and proved their worth, they should be rewarded and congratulated by the company. It is not easy to be a newbie, especially when you are likely to be the least experienced member of the team, so providing appropriate rewards is helpful for nurturing self-confidence and motivation in interns.

According to Maddy Malhotra, who wrote How to Build Self-Esteem and Be Confident: Overcome Fears, Break Habits, Be Successful and Happy“Emotional health is more important than a fit body. Unknowingly, most of us focus on the latter, hence the lack of inner-happiness, peace, love and fulfilment.”    

This means that we must encourage emotional intelligence before anything else, as it motivates us to perform better and develop ourselves while also remembering to put others first. It is the most important skill for interns to develop if they are to become valuable members of their companies.

Emotional Intelligence = Healthy Life + Happy Relationships + Productive Performance!

Jude Kanawati is Account Executive Intern at Cicero & Bernay Public Relations. An independent PR agency headquartered in Dubai and offering new-age public relations consultancy to the UAE and across the MENA region. |