“Three Ways Hosting An Intern Can Bring Value To Your Company” article originally published on Forbes
Hiring an intern isn’t a fast or easy process, but it is valuable, worthy of your time and fulfilling. If you are considering hiring an intern but are unsure if it will help your business, I challenge you to think back to your own youth, when you were just starting your career.
When I was young, I dreamed of having big, intellectual conversations, learning from all different sources. I wanted to be free to stumble into new thoughts and debate new subjects. Unfortunately, these conversations became fewer and farther between after college. By the time I made it to my first “career” job, they were virtually obsolete.
There were a few notable exceptions where someone stepped up to mentor me and these exceptions shaped who I have become today. I have long-lasting, positive relationships with my past mentors and continue to help them to this day, even as I take on my own interns and mentees. Was your experience similar?
Sometimes it is a challenge to find the time and energy to host an intern successfully, but for me, it has always been worth it. One of the most powerful effects internships can have on your business is a totally fresh perspective, not to mention the overall satisfaction you will feel having been a positive influence on someone else.
It can be a joint process of discovery.
If you’re considering hosting an intern, remember that you don’t have to develop the entire program yourself. Work with your intern to create a unique, customized program based on their goals as well as yours. This will take some pressure off you while bringing benefits and learning opportunities to all involved.
I recall one young lady in particular who drastically changed my way of looking at internships:
As Piccolo Marketing grew into an agency, I found that I had more time available to dedicate to mentoring others, something I had always dreamed of doing. I began attending meetings with the Vanderbilt Women in Business program, where I was paired with a very engaging young woman who reached out to me later requesting to meet with me. She shared that she was interested in an internship, and when I asked her what she would want to learn from the experience, she was silent for a long time. When she finally replied, she said no one had ever asked her what she wanted to learn before! We sat together and compiled a list of things for her to work on during her time at Piccolo, and she eagerly and successfully accomplished them all during her time with us.
When we ask students what they want their careers to be, we often forget to ask them what they want to experiment with or explore. Engaging them in the process of discovery helps everyone.
It’s a chance to get feedback and new possible solutions.
While offering a variety of learning experiences can be time-consuming, introducing an intern to different parts of your business will actually allow you to get unbiased, out-of-the-box feedback in vital areas like training, onboarding and efficiencies. Additionally, you can get their assistance in researching alternative, creative solutions for software and processes to solve your business challenges and potentially save you time and money.
My team asks a lot of questions during the time our interns are with us. One summer, we hired an intern to help us with our social media development. She realized that there might be some better software solutions and set out to gather some ideas. She shared her research, and we ended up switching software based on her recommendation, saving thousands each year in software fees and inefficient labor.
It’s an opportunity to review your own wants and needs.
Of course, you can always learn some valuable lessons from situations that didn’t work out. One intern was referred to our program, but we later found that his expectations didn’t match ours. He just wanted to work from home for a couple of hours a week and make some quick cash, while we wanted someone invested in learning and growing within our company. Setting clear expectations and learning objectives is a vital part of setting all parties up for success.
Putting an internship in place is a great opportunity to review what you actually need and want for your business. You can ask all the whys and hows, revisiting what you do and when. When we weren’t clear in the beginning, we got the opportunity to do some soul searching — a valuable learning experience and fresh perspective.
When bringing an intern on board, ask yourself what part you want them to play in your company and how you see them fitting into your company culture. If all you’re looking for is to have someone come in and run errands, articulate that clearly from day one. You may actually be looking for a part-time assistant.
Right from the start, our interns are taught that it is their responsibility to share with us whenever they see how our processes, products or services could be better. We will, in turn, teach them how to review and share their ideas with their future teams. We assure them that it’s always hard to do this, at least at first, because they’re used to being excluded. When they step up, though, they earn their experience and grow in confidence.
As you consider setting up an internship in your business, do some soul searching. Ask yourself what you hope to achieve from the relationship. If your motivation is just to get someone to come in and do all the menial, time-consuming tasks and chores that seem to pile up, you will be missing out on the lasting benefits that can come from the fresh perspective of an intern. In establishing a value-based internship within your business, not only will you be helping and supporting a young person just starting out — you may very well find yourself and your business benefit from the relationship, too.