Internship 101 – Summer Interns
I see people soliciting requests on Facebook for interns for the summer. One business announced they had openings for 24 interns. Really – your business truly needs 24 interns? How is it possibly running now without those billets filled? Do you have staff who can realistically manage 24 interns? Let’s talk about an internship.
What They Are Not
Interns are not gophers or jack of all trades people that do the dirty work no one else wants to do. They are looking to gain key skills that will help them be employable upon graduation using their degree. I recommend doing a job search to see what other employers are expecting in a job applicant similar to what your intern will be seeking. Help your intern gain these skills. Do not expect an accounting intern to answer phones and make copies. They should be working closing with your accountant or bookkeeper. You would not offer an internship to a pastry chef if you own a realty office unless you currently employ a pastry chef and this person would be supervised by the pastry chef. If you are looking for an office manager intern then ensure you contact a college that has an office manager program or you interview possible interns that office management is their major.
Paid or Unpaid Internships
Unpaid internships are almost unheard of today. A search online will reveal many lawsuits against high profile Universities and Businesses for abusing interns and not paying them a fair wage. You will want to know what the policy is for your state. North Carolina Universities offer paid internships as do various levels of government agencies. Know the rules for your state and the state the student is a student. I had an intern from the state of Minnesota in 2011 and on the intern contract, there was a block for me to check “unpaid”. However, I did reward her with gift cards to various restaurants and clothing stores periodically to show appreciation.
If you are near a military base that has a Wounded Warrior Program you may be able to solicit interns. These interns are free to your business because the intern is drawing a paycheck from Uncle Sam. I have personally had an administrator intern with my business for a short period of time. You must remember these interns can be discharged at any time and probably have doctor’s appointments they must attend. You will need to be flexible.
Job Description: Be very clear on the work hours and specific duties. You may only need the person to work on a specific project. Write the job description as clearly as you would a job announcement or job description for an employee.
Review resumes: Ask the applicants to provide a resume. Verify his or her achievements. Do not feel you have to take someone who is not a good fit. You will be investing time in training the person or allowing the person to hone a skill i.e. web design, social media management etc. Ask for references and contact them. Treat this just as you would when hiring a permanent employee. Asking for a resume and references will help the intern prepare for job hunting after the internship.
Conduct Interviews: Be prepared to interview the applicants and ask for references. Ask the person what he or she expects to gain from the internship. Search online for appropriate questions to ask the interviewee. This may be the intern’s first job interview. Help them learn from this experience. Don’t be afraid to say “no”. If the intern is not right for your business offer a few referrals for him or her to contact. Explain to the intern why they are not a right fit for your business. Don’t let them leave wondering. Build up their self-confidence.
After your interview pick one or two goals for your intern. The intern and his/her advisor will also have goals for the intern. Be cognizant of this and respect the goals the college or university has for the intern. In the paperwork, you will need to list milestones and how the student will reach the milestones and goals for the internship.
You will need an intern policy. This will be similar to your employee handbook list of rules. You will want at a minimum to include information such as:
• Work Hours
• Work Uniform – Dress Code
• Confidentiality Agreement
• NonCompete Agreement – do this regardless if your state upholds NonCompete Agreements
• Cell Phone Policy
You will want your intern to sign a contract. Your contract will be very similar to your employee contract. They will also have paperwork that you must sign for their college or university.
You may decide to offer your intern a paying job after the internship. This is a win-win if you and your intern considered the internship a success. Remember, interns are at your business to learn so you set the tone of what he or she will expect when hired by you or another business owner.
Where to Find Interns
There are many websites that are similar to job boards that are specifically for interns to post what type of internship they are seeking as well as the business owner can post a job description. You may also want to contact colleges and universities in your area to see if they have an intern program. Family and friends may be a source for finding an intern. But I caution you to realize that rarely do recommendations from friends and family work out. If the person is not happy there are usually hurt feelings for all parties involved.
Hiring an intern is not something that should be taken lightly. You must know your state rules on whether you must pay or not pay an intern. The same effort you take in interviewing and hiring a new employee must be used when seeking an intern. Interns provide value to you and your business. You provide a valuable opportunity to the intern. Review the list above and design an intern strategy so you both consider the internship a success.
Coach Jaynine is the owner of Dream Catcher Business and Career Coaching. Jaynine uses the knowledge and skills she acquired during her 20 year career in the United States Marine Corps, working as a Psychologist in a locked mental health hospital, and being an entrepreneur to help medical and mental health professionals, small business owners, and medical spa owners grow their businesses by teaching them her five step process for attracting their ideal clients and turning them into paying clients. You can learn more about her signature program and download her free ecourse My Five Steps to Networking Success by visiting http://coachjaynine.com/