Your startup or growing company has a tight budget. You're hoping to get a lot done, but only have a few employees. Has the thought of hiring an intern -- or several interns -- ever crossed your mind?
These benefits of hiring interns might persuade you to start an internship program:
- New perspective on organizational issues. Interns challenge "the way we've always done it" mentality and bring fresh, new ideas to the company. Interns are good at questioning processes and can often see a better way of doing things that a manager might not.
- Ease of use with technology. Social media, computer programs, iPads – these are a piece of cake for young professionals. And, although you're a young entrepreneur, you can always use a hand from a fellow Gen Y tech-savvy professional.
- It's a trial period that could lead to something more. An internship is a great way to see how much potential a student or recent graduate has in the field. You'll get to see their skills and work ethic as an intern—and might choose to bring them on as a paid employee down the line.
- Help with projects or tasks that you're struggling to complete. An interested candidate takes on an internship in hopes of accomplishing something to use on their resume or in future interviews. Give them real, meaningful work that will help your organization run smoother, accomplish more, or be more successful. Just make sure you don't violate the The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which states that "the employer that provides the training derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the trainees, and on occasion the employer's operations may actually be impeded." (Of course, you probably realize that if you're not benefiting in some way, the intern likely isn't either. I definitely think this law needs a serious update, which I take a shot at in my recent book, Lies, Damned Lies & Internships: The Truth About Getting from Classroom to Cubicle.)
- Gain brand advocates. Hiring an intern helps spread the word about your company—whether you mean to or not. If you're an impressive internship supervisor and mentor, your interns will probably talk about their experience with peers, friends and family members, essentially advertising for your organization (but it's free!).
However, don't hire an intern (or several) for any of these reasons below:
- You need the "free labor." An internship isn't something to take lightly -- you need to provide mentorship and training for the student or young professional in order for them to learn something. An intern should not be a replacement for a paid employee; however, they should have real goals and leave the opportunity with additional skills for their career.
- You're too busy. If you know you won't be a good intern supervisor, don't bring on interns. Unless you can dedicate much of your time to training and mentorship, it won't be a beneficial experience for either party.
- You don't have any clear goals in mind for the program. Just because you need additional help does not mean you should hire interns. Instead, you can consider hiring temporary employees or contractors to help with your workload. If you do want to bring on interns, consider what goals you'd like them to reach by the end of the internship period.
Have you considered hiring interns before? Will you in the future? Why/why not?
Heather R. Huhman, founder and president of Come Recommended, has nearly a decade of public relations and marketing experience, specializing in media relations, content marketing, and social media. She is a member of The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only nonprofit organization comprised of the world's most promising young entrepreneurs. The YEC promotes entrepreneurship as a solution to unemployment and underemployment and provides entrepreneurs with access to tools, mentorship, and resources that support each stage of their business's development and growth.