Looking for some temporary help this summer for your small business? How does an enthusiastic, motivated worker at a reasonable hourly rate sound? In certain instances, you might even be able to attract such talent at no cost to your company.
College students looking for intern positions are a valuable resource for many organizations. The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) estimates an 8.5 percent increase for interns hired in 2012, compared to just one year ago.
Internships are a win-win situation for both the entrepreneur and the student. It provides you with new talent at a minimal cost. Interns are generally eager to learn and will work cheerfully and diligently, as they are hoping for the chance to acquire new skills and additional experience. A savvy intern is probably also hoping to impress you and receive a solid business reference and possible future job offer.
Of course, inexpensive labor should not be simply given the lousy assignments no one else in the office wants to handle. Interns are helping your business in any way you ask, but also expect to learn about your company. It’s probably a given an intern knows how to file and take out the trash, so these are not the types of tasks a student is wanting to solely perform this summer.
Most college campuses provide a tight-knit community for students, so word tends to travel quickly when an intern discovers a choice or not-so-choice assignment. To ensure you are able to recruit the best candidates each year, make sure your interns feel valued.
Here are some tips to make the experience a positive one for both you and your intern:
- Provide a job description, as you would with any paid employee. Include short- and long-term goals, and be as detailed as possible where necessary.
- Offer an orientation (again, just like any other type of new employee would receive). Ensure the intern has the opportunity to meet everyone on your staff during the first day or two of employment. Handbooks and other materials are welcome.
- Designate a specific individual to act as the intern’s manager or mentor. This is a huge time-saver for the entire company, as the intern has one person he can rely on for answers to questions, and other staff members are able to focus completely on their other responsibilities.
- Allow the intern to complete at least one project from start to finish during his stay at your company. Offer the intern the chance to showcase his accomplishments via a formal presentation by the intern to your management team.
- Provide constant feedback.
- Allow the intern the opportunity to “interview” members of your team during his tenure. Students generally consider the time spent listening to professionals at all levels of management describe their jobs and career experiences to be extremely valuable.
- Consider hiring more than one student. A sole intern may feel somewhat like an outsider at his new position, particularly if there are no other employees close in age or relatively new to the company. Providing an “intern team” right from the beginning helps the interns feel more comfortable from the first day – and also gives you, the potential employer, an excellent opportunity to see how different individuals contribute to your organization.
- Arrange for a specific work area for your intern. Nothing makes an employee (paid or not) feel less wanted more than shuffling him to a different work station every day.
- Always conduct an exit interview. This is essential for both parties to receive feedback in numerous areas and should help you and your intern better prepare for the future.
This year, the U.S. Department of Labor is offering a special initiative, Summer Jobs+Bank, to assist businesses and students with internships. For more information on how your company can participate, visit http://www.dol.gov/summerjobs/Employers.htm.
One final note of importance: Obviously, most interns would prefer a position that compensates them; however, unpaid internships are a viable and legal alternative.
If you choose to offer unpaid internships, be aware that many of the same labor laws and regulations that govern your paid employees will also apply to unpaid interns. Please check with local, state and federal authorities for regulations that will apply to your specific internship program.
No business is too small or too large for an internship program, and everyone benefits if the program is properly managed.
Most entrepreneurs report the experience of seeing their company through fresh and enthusiastic eyes is a special one! We would enjoy hearing about what you have planned for the summer of 2012.