Do you remember your first internship? For many business school graduates, an internship is a rite of passage. And now, the tables have turned and you’re in a position to supervise a young up-and-comer! For some business owners, having an intern sounds like an ideal situation – an extra set of hands who are bright, young, and eager-to-please. In addition, you could end up with a new, ready-trained employee. Surveys have found that 52% of businesses end up hiring their interns after graduation, which can save you the time and money it takes to recruit and train new employees! But supervising an intern is a little more involved than you might think, and it requires time and investment. You should consider the pros and cons of hiring an intern before deciding to take one on.
An Intern Can Be An Asset
There are a lot of benefits to having a college-age worker in your office. What they might lack in professional experience, they make up for in new ideas and unique perspectives. Young interns can offer:
- Innovative ideas: Despite being young and perhaps inexperienced, college students can bring fresh ideas and new perspectives to your business. They are immersed in current research through their coursework, and are very likely up-to-date on industry trends.
- Varied skill sets: A college student might bring some very useful skills to the table when they join your team. For example, you could have your intern focus on social media if they have a strong background in that area. Having an intern take the reins will help boost your online presence without the hefty price tag of an outside contractor.
- Employee test drive: Internships have a predetermined end date, but if the intern is doing well and seems to be a good match for your business, you can easily transition them from intern to employee. They are already trained, acclimated to the culture of your office culture, and working on projects.
- Future recruiting: Your intern’s network becomes your network. Even if you don’t extend a job offer to them, their word-of-mouth referrals are an easy way to recruit prospective employees from their college.
Tips For A Mutually Beneficial Internship
If you decide that an intern is right for your business, there are some steps you can take to ensure that the arrangement benefits both you and your intern.
- Assign a task manager: While you should still offer your intern chances to receive feedback and mentorship directly from you, you should assign them a task manager with whom they can check in daily. Interns should be encouraged to reach out to and collaborate with anyone on the team, but by giving them a point person you provide much-needed direction.
- Give them a list of tasks: It might take some extra planning on your end, but giving your intern a list of tasks and projects right at the beginning of their internship can help guide them throughout their time with your company. It is important to have realistic expectations for what they can do, and to also provide meaningful work, but assigning various menial tasks can also lighten your load and keep them busy.
- Determine a long-term project: Along with the list of tasks, you should sit down with your intern within their first two weeks to decide on a long term project. This gives them an opportunity to have some agency in their internship experience. They will feel like they have been assigned meaningful work, and that they are being given an opportunity to focus on the skills they are most interested in developing.
- Make time for them: Your intern, and all staff for that matter, will thrive if they feel like a valued member of your community. Include them in company-wide meetings, team meetings, and planning stages.
When To Avoid An Intern
For some businesses, the new energy and fresh perspectives that interns offer might be worth the work. But you might find that the time and energy it takes to train temporary, unskilled workers isn’t worth it. Avoid hiring interns if:
- You’re too busy to train and supervise another employee. The goal is, of course, to have interns who can function like an independent member of the team, albeit with smaller, less critical projects. But getting them to that point might take some time. If you don’t have a month or more to commit to closely managing someone new, it might not be a good time for an intern.
- You don’t have the materials and tools they will need. The biggest perk of having an intern is the unpaid labor. They do, however, still need tools to succeed. Are you comfortable providing a computer or laptop, work phone, and office supplies? If your budget is too tight for that, skip an intern until your business is in a better financial position.
- Your office is under-staffed. You might think that hiring an intern can replace an employee, but if your office already has very few employees you need to reconsider. Not only is replacing an employee with an intern in violation of one of the six federal criteria for unpaid internships (“Internships do not displace regular employees.”), but you will likely see a decrease in work quality from your overwhelmed, unpaid intern.
- You can’t clearly state what they will be learning. Interns are there to support you in your daily tasks, and the one thing they need in return is a learning experience. If you’re just hiring an intern to do coffee runs, then you will also be violating federal rules and at risk of a lawsuit.
An internship might not be a good fit for every business, but there are some talented young people who are willing to learn and who can provide valuable support to your business. You will need to invest some time, but if you empower and support your interns, you might end up with an amazing asset to the company in the long run.