Like the hordes of students now hunting for a summer job, you were once a fresh-faced youth looking for a chance. You had talent, you had desire, and you had drive. Maybe you were given a shot, or maybe you weren’t. Either way, you’ve made it now and you know how valuable an opportunity can be. Isn’t it time you gave someone a chance - and improved yourself and your business at the same time?
Why hire an intern?
There are lots of reasons to hire an intern - some better than others. Some see internships as free or inexpensive labour. Others see them as cheap ways to fill in for vacationing employees. A thoughtless few even see interns as the perfect candidates for carrying out the lowly tasks that no one else wants to take on. These probably aren’t the best reasons for hiring an intern and, in some places, are even illegal practices.
So why should you hire an intern? For starters, when used properly, an intern really can provide you with extra help. They also provide an energy you might not otherwise get from your employees (or even yourself) and are immediately placed in your “potential future employees” file - fully trained and ready to start.
Ready to land a stellar intern? A student or recent grad who can inject some energy into your operation, who brings a new perspective to your work, who is eager to show off his/her talents? Start by aiming high. You’re not just looking for a warm body, you’re looking for someone with a passion for what you do, the capacity to learn the ropes and the dedication and reliability to stick with it. You may consider working with a local college or university to develop an internship program that allows you to target high achievers. Build a strong enough program and students will soon be coming to you, meaning you spend less time beating the bushes for candidates.
Mix up your management style
Once you’ve hired an intern or two, know that you’re going to have to manage them differently than you manage full-time, permanent employees. They may have limited confidence and experience, and their time with you is probably limited to a school semester or a timeframe outlined in a contract. Spend more time with them than you do regular employees, and be sure to intervene and provide feedback as soon as poor (or exceptional) work is brought to your attention.
Learn from them
One of the benefits to hiring interns, even if it is often overlooked, is their ability to mentor senior staff in certain areas. It may come as a shock to some, but interns can teach permanent staff about a number of things. They include:
- Working in an intergenerational workplace
- Using social media
- The benefits of mobile communications
- Transparency in personal and professional life
- How to have fun at work
- Thinking big
- Building relationships
Encourage your staff to ask interns for assistance at appropriate times. This not only helps senior staff learn new things, but also builds trust and makes interns feel like valued members of your team.
Give ‘em a chance
Taking on interns is not, however, all about what they can do for you. They need to get something out of the experience too (especially if they’re not making much/any money). Give them a chance to get their hands dirty on a project. Let them show off their photography prowess, their design skills or their writing talents. You might be pleasantly surprised, and you also give them a chance to build a meaningful portfolio of work - something they absolutely need to start their careers.
Keep them around
Remember that “potential future employees” file? Start developing it, even if you can’t keep any interns on right away. A good way to stay connected with your crop of young up-and-comers is through a professional social networking site like LinkedIn. Not only does it allow you to keep track of your roster of potential candidates, it also provides a means for you to publicly show your appreciation for their good work. When you’ve got an open spot, you’ll know exactly who’s available to fill it and how to contact him/her.
Go forth and hire!
The decision to introduce a young, inexperienced, temporary employee to your business can be a difficult one that shouldn’t be made in haste. Interns can bring a lot to the table if you’re prepared to work with them and create an atmosphere in which their skills are nurtured, but they also require a great deal of your time and energy. If you’re prepared to invest that time and energy, the payoff can be valuable in the long run.