Interns are a staple in the MayeCreate company culture. I find myself encouraging more and more of my clients to hire an intern to help with their marketing efforts. If you’ve always been hesitant, here’s your Intern 101 guide.
What can I have an intern do?
Marketing tasks, bookkeeping, answering phones, filing, or even running errands — ultimately, any project they have the skills for. I find that super technical tasks (unless they’re going to school for it) are difficult to delegate to interns. The best activities for short-term interns are specific projects or routine-structured activities. At MayeCreate, those activities may include simple site updates, business card and letterhead design, blogging, social media posting, photo editing, or illustrations.
Where do I find an intern?
Many degree programs require students to have an internship before they can graduate. Fortunately, we live in a college town, so there’s lots of college interns available. “Work closely with the school’s career services office,” says Dan Gomez-Palacio, director of career services for Columbia College. “These offices will post your positions and help you recruit candidates, typically at no charge. Consider attending local career fairs or events to speak with students directly.”
Sharon Wood-Turley, MU science and agricultural journalism program chair, shared: “One of the best things you could do is establish a relationship with the faculty in the departments from which you hope to recruit interns. Explain what type of skill set you are looking for, and the faculty contact will help you connect with the students who will best fit your needs.”
Gomez-Palacio says it’s best to start early, as students are often planning internships for subsequent semesters.
Benefits for students
- Real world experience. You can’t teach real world experience in a classroom. “Even though our degree program offers students excellent opportunities for hands-on experience, nothing we can do exactly replicates the environment of a real workplace,” Wood-Turley says. Gomez-Palacio agrees. “Students learn professional soft skills that are so necessary when they leave college,” he says. “Interacting with supervisors and colleagues, self-monitoring, rapidly re-prioritizing tasks, and handling yourself in meetings are examples of skills needed in today’s workforce and not learned in the classroom.”
- Improved employment opportunities upon graduation. Job skills gained in an internship could be a key factor as employers make hiring decisions. “Getting that initial experience in your field, even if it’s unpaid, can mean an easier time finding employment after graduation,” Gomez-Palacio says.
- Test the waters before diving in. Students have the opportunity to experience different types of work in varying company and city sizes. Through internships, “students can gain practical knowledge about what happens day-to-day in the industry,” Gomez-Palacio says. “Sometimes, that can be a realization that the field may not be right for them, though often it helps them solidify their career choice.”
- College credit for hands-on experience. Many degree programs encourage or require internships for graduation, and many others offer class credit for internships.
Benefits for employers
A new perspective and tech skills. Interns can give you a fresh set of eyes and perspective to look at things a little differently. They can be super tech savvy, so they can help you digitize your marketing list, start a blogging campaign, or get a handle on your social media without much training.
- Cost-effective. I choose to pay my interns because I want them to be more invested. It’s not uncommon for interns to work for free. “Recent federal laws have made it difficult for businesses to not pay their interns, but many organizations still do it. However, by paying the interns — even at minimum wage — you greatly increase the likelihood of attracting possible candidates,” Gomez-Palacio says. Make sure to factor in the cost of your time spent training and managing to ensure your intern is truly cost-effective.
- A hand up, not a handout. You are grooming the next set of workers to enter the job pool. You can teach valuable life lessons early. “Internships can help students understand their aspired field and learn from a mentor,” Gomez-Palacio says. “They can also be places for students to observe and find professional mentors to help ready them for their next steps.”
“The role of supervising an intern is critical to the success of a student,” Gomez-Palacio says. “It starts before the student even gets there and continues throughout the experience. If managed well, interns can accomplish a great deal, add new ideas to your organization, infuse energy and excitement into your staff, and complete projects.”
List out intern tasks and responsibilities, goals, and expectations, and learn your intern’s goals.
Create process documents or training videos to explain tasks.
Make sure new hires understand the office environment and staff roles.
Check in early and often, even micromanage a bit at first. Remember, he or she is settling into the workforce.
Anticipate a learning curve. Point out the things your intern does well and areas for improvement.
Keep daily tasks or projects specific. Your intern’s time is limited and it’s likely he or she doesn’t have a fully developed skill set for problem solving in your work environment.