By Evan Vitale
Using interns frequently can help you pass along work that others can do. Your interns will obtain relevant job experience, usually a little cash for school, and hopefully an excellent reference for quality work. I have used both senior high school and college-aged interns. Frequently senior high interns are a better fit because they are less inclined to be out late at night constantly, they might not have a vehicle and have to rely on mom or dad for transportation. On occasion they might have sports commitments you will have to work around or could require more hands-on nurturing and may be less likely to show independent judgment quickly.
You most likely can’t just pick up the phone and call the local senior high school or college. The best interns are found by networking with either local parents you know or in a university situation your alumni office or a formal internship recruitment officer. If you aren’t around many parents with high school aged youth, you may be able to secure a meeting with a school guidance counselor in your area. You must be able to specifically indicate your work requirements. For high school students, you will only be able to schedule them for afternoons and possibly weekends. To attract interest with the counselors, stress they’re getting real life job experience. For colleges, you are able in most cases to just visit their guidance office. Sometimes you will only be able to meet with other student staffing the career office and you may have to be engaging to attract interest. Sometimes they will be busy and you will just need to fill out the form which they put into a database. Some universities have a formal web-based data submission form or full career fairs where you can strategize for specific internship needs.
Occasionally, postings can work out on Craig’s list in addition to local physical advertising boards. For low paid work entry level, do keep in mind that people can be non-committal and unreliable for the first time meetings. Craig’s List can also be notorious for drawing the worst and the best. Some of your interns may be wonderful, long time contacts. Others may not show up.
Be sure to formally interview candidates even if it is just over coffee next door. Allow it to be obvious what your tasks are and make sure your requests are reasonable. Interns have reported to us that when prior intern managers only had them make copies and get coffee that they lost interest as they felt no professional challenge. Make sure that you aren’t just giving them grunt work and that they will be able to learn a skill they did not have. One of the best interns I had was an accounting major and math whiz wanting to learn how businesses used QuickBooks Pro for Small Businesses. By the end of the summer she had fully earned my trust, was doing all of the journal entries, making the check runs and nagging the owner to sign checks, licking all of the bill envelopes. These were chores I didn’t enjoy or have to do but that she enjoyed doing because it gave her a sense of responsibility. It gave me more uninterrupted time to write business assessments for clients and actually get more clients.
When they are hired, provide your interns with specific instructions and be clear with your expectations. Do not assume they know much about what it is you do on a daily basis. This will help you avoid surprises. Give and request feedback. Don’t be offended if they catch on quickly and you are looking for more work for them to do. Make sure they are fully integrated into your office team environment, invited to outings and allowed to contribute during staff meetings. Sometimes new business ideas will evolve.
Interns can run a few errands like to the local post office and the office supply store, to both edit and write articles, update websites, contribute graphics design work, and maybe fix your computer. In most cases they will elevate your productivity and free up time. Interns can be quite economical and fun to have in your office, taking the monotony out of your day to day work.