How To Run Great Skip-Level Meetings For Interns

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@managingdevFabian Camargo

Software Engineering Management Coach

Setting up a skip level meeting for interns can be a great way to add value to the intern, their mentor, and the mentor’s manager.
Internships are great for a multitude of reasons. They provide valuable career experience to the intern, they can be a great recruiting tool for the company, and they provide helpful growth opportunities to the employees. A skip level meeting between the intern and their mentor’s manager helps you take advantage of those growth opportunities.
Assuming that you are the manager, a skip level meeting allows you to:
  • Practice having skip level meetings
  • Build a relationship between yourself and the intern
  • Provide feedback to the mentor
  • Get feedback for yourself, the team and the company
  • Enhance the intern’s experience
Here’s a template for running a skip level with an intern. We’ll assume a summer internship and plan for 3 meetings.

Discuss skip levels with the mentor

If you’re unfamiliar with skip levels this article gives a good overview. The first rule of skip levels: do NOT schedule a skip level without first discussing it with the mentor. Ever. If done poorly it can undermine the mentor and create poor team dynamics. Execution matters.
Successful skip levels are built on trust and transparency.  
Start off on the right foot by discussing it with the mentor.
  • Tell them you’d like to set up a skip level
  • Discuss your motivation and intention, let them know you want to support them and the intern
  • Ask them what they think, and if they have any questions or concerns
  • Involve them in choosing the topics and questions for the meetings
This should feel like a collaboration between you and the mentor.

Meeting invite and first meeting questions

The first meeting is the intro meeting. Here are some good topics and questions for a first meeting:
  • What a skip level is and what your role is
    • Reinforce the mentor’s primary role and your secondary role
    • Talk about transparency and mutual support
  • Build rapport and get to know each other
    • Tell me a little about yourself?
    • What do you like to do for fun?
    • What attracted you to our company?
    • Don’t forget to go both ways and open up about yourself
  • Answer any questions about the company, team, or product
  • Discuss what the intern’s goals are for the internship
    • What are they hoping to get out of it?
    • What specific skills are they hoping to improve?
Here’s a sample meeting invite:
Hi,
Putting some time on the calendar for us to chat. This is an opportunity for you to ask me any questions about your internship, the team, or the company. It’s also a good time for me to get feedback from you on how it’s going so far. I’ll prepare a few questions for you. For our first meeting, I’d like you to think about what the #1 thing is that you’d like to get out of this internship.
Please let me or your mentor know if you have any questions about this meeting.
Cheers,
Fabian
p.s. The other interns will get a similar invite and your mentor is aware that we’re having this meeting. My goal is to meet with you 2-3 times during your internship.

Second meeting

The second meeting is the most flexible. They’re in the middle of their internship and hopefully hitting their groove. They should be making progress on their project and feeling more comfortable. 
Here are some possible topics for the second meeting:
  • A career conversation
    • What does your ideal job look like? What skills do you think you’d need for it?
    • What do you dream of doing?
    • What questions do you have about what it’s like to do this full time?
  • Answer any questions they have
    • What would you like to know more about?
    • What parts of our team or business are you most curious about
  • Get some feedback on how they and their mentor are doing
    • What’s your process for getting unstuck?
    • What has been your experience when you’ve had questions for your mentor or others on the team?
    • What has been most surprising to you so far?
    • What’s been the most fun so far? What’s been less fun?

Third and last meeting

The third meeting is the wrap-up. This is probably your last chance to get feedback and to provide an exceptional experience. Hopefully everything went swimmingly. They did a fantastic job, you’re excited to make them a full-time offer, and they’re excited to accept!
Of course, that’s not going to happen all the time. Even if the picture isn’t as rosy you still want them to have the best experience possible. Whether it’s an intern, an interview candidate, or an office visitor, treating them well says a lot about your culture.
Here are some topics for the last meeting:
  • Reflect on the experience
    • How do you think you did? What do you think you did well? What do you think you could have done better?
    • How did we do on your goals for the internship?
    • What are you most proud of?
  • Get feedback for yourself, the mentor, and the organization
    • What’s one thing you think your mentor did really well? What’s one thing you wish they had done differently? Same question for me.
    • What would you do to improve our internship program?
    • What’s one thing you think we should do differently as a company?
  • Appreciation and continued support
    • Thank them for their contributions. Be specific!
    • Wish them luck in the next step in their career (e.g. finishing school, next internship, etc.)
    • Offer them continued support if they have any further questions down the road.

Final thoughts

Internships offer learning and growth opportunities for everyone involved, not just the intern! A skip level meeting is a great tool to enhance the experience.
What are some of your favorite skip level questions for interns? Contact me and let me know.

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