According to a survey conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), nearly 50% of employers would like to see an internship on a student’s resume. Following up on a previous article about identifying an intern for your small business, here are some guidelines on how to manage interns once you’ve brought them on board.
If you’ve found an intern who has some background in your industry, there’s no reason to pigeonhole them into the most obvious position based on their work or college experience. For example, if the intern is a marketing major, you might want to give them some exposure to operations. Or, if the intern is a writer who works best independently, it could be educational to have them participate in meetings and brainstorming sessions. Either way, try to give your interns a variety of experiences.
Whether the intern is working in or out of his or her comfort zone, it’s important to allot enough time to train and advise them. In fact, assigning a point person or a mentor can strengthen your intern’s first professional experience. To further enrich the internship, spend some time planning projects for the interns before they come on board, rather than throwing ad hoc assignments at them.
When it comes to aspects of your business related to social media, you may find that your interns bring fresh insights that you may not have considered. Many young people are well versed in the subtleties of social networks ranging from mainstream outlets like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to lesser-known ones such as Pinterest and Tumblr. Some Internet-savvy interns may even be able to take it a step farther and handle tasks such as writing for your company blog or e-newsletter.
You might also want to consider creating a special project for the intern, such as a marketing campaign for a new service or a rollout plan for a new product. If you have any pro bono clients, assigning interns to spearhead the project can give them valuable leadership skills and more “real world” experience.
Finally, don’t feel like you have to reinvent your internship program year after year. You can have current interns play a role in training new ones, either by writing up guidelines, videotaping a procedure or contributing to an intern manual. Also, ask for feedback on the intern program during and at the conclusion of their time with your company.
Fortunately, as a small business owner, you may be better equipped to manage interns than a large company would be. Your agility can allow you to offer your interns a wide variety of experiences while also providing more guidance and structure in comparison in a larger company. What types of programs/work do you typically assign interns? Share your recommendations with the SBOC community below.