An internship program, when done right, is a great way for businesses to discover young talent, enhance their perspective and even get old projects whirring again -all whilst providing valuable experience to burgeoning professionals. Internships are in demand all year round and there’s a huge amount of competition between graduates to land them.
For you the employer, they should be viewed as a joint venture that benefits both parties. Internships are a great way to support the community – a key facet of successful SMEs – as well as a safer, inexpensive method of recruitment.
So whether you’re after a way to sample new talent and grow your team or if you’re keen to bring in some fresh eyes on old projects, check out these tips to make your internships a richer experience.
1. Spare a little time
It’s important to realise that some interns will new to the job market and have little to no professional experience.
Don't let that put you off
Providing your selection process is rigorous enough (e.g. recruit applicants with a 2.1 degree or higher, college students, graduates only, etc.) then you can be confident that your intern has an abundance of talent – it simply needs cultivating. Of course time is a precious commodity in any business, but by spending a little extra in the professional development of their skills, you’ll be fostering an employee that is literally raised on your business model.
One of the key benefits of internships is that you’re able to determine the cultural fit, measure skills and imbue workplace values, all without the expenses of ordinary recruitment and employment. By putting time into a talent pipeline of interns, you’re nurturing a better workforce for yourself in the future.
2. Mobilise your mentors
Following on from point number one, make sure you have the right individual spending time nurturing your intern’s talents. It’s vital to employ patience and good communication when working with an inexperienced starter, so finding an internship coordinator from a member of the team who excels at these traits will guarantee that you’re developing your intern’s skills efficiently.
That being said, it’s also important for your intern to be properly integrated into the team or department they’re working in. If they’re new to the workplace environment, then having them interact with the whole team will be the best way for them to acclimatise. So while having a mentor figure teaching them the ropes is a priority in the short term – it’s paramount that they’re not shielded away from other colleagues in the process.
3. Determine whether interns are right for you
There are some companies that look at the roles that they need to be fulfilled and can see a clear career path for people with the right skills. They can see a route that a junior colleague might take to make their way up the ranks. Interns are great for these companies because every internship harbours the potential to grow into an important role in the business.
For some SMEs and businesses dealing with sensitive or complex functions, there isn’t much room for entry-level roles. For these companies, the cost – although less than conventional temporary employment – may not yield much of a ROI when the intern probably won’t be kept on to fulfil a more advanced role.
So, ensure you don’t precipitously invest in an internship scheme. Take a look at the roles an intern might go on to fill and if it seems unlikely that they will qualify as an employee, accept that your resources are better spent elsewhere.
4. Plan and schedule their experience
A three month internship focused on skill development isn’t a time frame that allows for settling into a routine. That’s fine – in fact, that’s good, because your intern wants to experience as much of the workplace and workflow as possible. However, some form of schedule ensures that a single duty or element of work isn’t overdone, nor another feature neglected. It doesn’t have to be a strict regimen of talent sharpening; daily allocations of broad activities – team building, research, development, etc. – are enough to ensure your intern’s experience is a broad one.
5. Want an intern for the right reasons
It’s an unfortunate reality that some employers see internships as a means to free or cheap labour with the justification that ‘we’re giving them great work experience to put on their CV’. Yes, an intern is a less costly way to employ somebody to get work done, but that should not be your sole intention.
First, recognise that an internship is a legitimate, paid position. If they’re not being paid, then they’re a volunteer or simply shadowing somebody. Second, ask yourself whether you genuinely want an intern – complete with prospects of future employment and skill development – or if you simply need a part-time employee to get some office jobs finished.
If your thoughts are centred on simply getting jobs done on the cheap then an intern isn’t for you. An internship can be a great stepping stone into a fantastic job for them and a young, talented employee for you, but it does take time, patience, and the right culture - so think hard about whether it fits your business model.