5 Key Strategies for Forming a Developmental Relationship With Your Intern

What does it take to develop an impactful relationship with a high school student? How can you provide work direction and also provide coaching for professional growth? And how do you do all this without a crystal ball?

The Search Institute, an international research group focused on the success of kids, created a research-validated framework that explains how adults can positively impact kids’ lives. The chart below features ways you can create a Developmental Relationship with your intern.

The Developmental Relationships Framework

Express CARE

Show that you like me and want the best for me.

  • Be Present – Pay attention when you are with me.
  • Be Warm – Let me know that you like being with me and express positive feelings toward me.
  • Invest – Commit time and energy to doing things for and with me.
  • Show Interest – Make it a priority to understand who I am and what I care about.
  • Be Dependable – Be someone I can count on and trust.

Challenge GROWTH

Show that you like me and want the best for me.

  • Inspire – Help me see future possibilities for myself.
  • Expect – Make it clear that you want me to live up to my potential.
  • Stretch – Recognize my thoughts and abilities while also pushing me to strengthen them.
  • Limit – Hold me accountable for appropriate boundaries and rules.


Help me complete tasks and achieve goals.

  • Encourage – Praise my effort and achievements.
  • Guide – Provide practical assistance and feedback to help me learn.
  • Model – Be an example I can learn from and admire.
  • Advocate – Stand up for me when I need it.


Hear my voice and let me share in making decisions

  • Respect – Take me seriously and treat me fairly.
  • Give Voice – Ask for and listen to my opinions and consider them when you make decisions.
  • Respond – Understand and adjust to me needs, interests, and abilities.
  • Collaborate – Work with me to accomplish goals and solve problems.


Expand my horizons and connect me to opportunities

  • Explore – Expose me to new ideas, experiences, and places.
  • Connect – Introduce me to people who can help me grow.
  • Navigate – Help me work through barriers that could stop me from achieving my goals.