Hiring an intern can be an enormous benefit to your small business and help create positive relationships in the community.
One of the best things about starting you own small business is that you get to do things your way and this means you can tailor an internship program to be exciting, meaningful and reflect the culture of your company. If you want rock star interns you will need to offer an internship fit for rock stars. Here are some tips to get the best and brightest whilst injecting some positive energy into your small business.
Pay your interns
This might seem obvious but the age old question-to pay or not to pay is still on the table for most small business owners. Most interns are looking to transition into the workforce and starting off with a “real job” help them with this. Start-up wizz kid Scarlett Sieber tells us that unpaid interns limit the pool of applicants and lowers their motivation to succeed. Also, from your end “If they are not paid, it’s easy just to ignore them.” If you are unable to pay them, consider attaching a scholarship or extra training, another incentive which equals a fiscal exchange.
Offer flex time/unusual work arrangements
These days, some small businesses are hiring interns who only work remotely. While this may not be feasible for most small businesses who are looking to be involved face-to face with their employees, a flexible schedule can be a huge draw card. The National Association of Colleges and Employers say that students mention flex-time as their “most desired feature in a job.” Summer interns in particular still want to have an awesome summer, so the ability to travel, spend the day at the beach or have another job while they are still meeting their deadlines allows them to incorporate their other needs in with their career goals.
Hire based on personality – not experience
There are a lot of reasons why a college student or recent graduate would prefer to go to a small business rather than a big company. A fast paced environment with real learning opportunities is definitely a part of this but they are also looking to fit into a culture which is dynamic and all about growth. Most small businesses are in a building phase and the everyday uncertainty that this bring is not for everyone. Choose a personality that fits into the culture of your small business and you will get better results in terms of productivity and contribution.
Assign a mentor
Gone are the days of interns fetching dry-cleaning and making coffee. A rock-star intern will want to learn as much as they can during their time with you. If you don’t already have a program planned for your intern, sit down with them in the very beginning and form a strategy that incorporates learning goals with tangible outcomes. Assign an employee who has a lot to offer and would enjoy a mentor protégé relationship. This way, it will be a win-win situation that everyone benefits from in the end.
Advertise through alternative channels
Ultimately, you want to attract interns who already have choices. One of the advantages of being a small business is that you can do things differently. Try posting your internship on social media platforms such as Facebook or Twitter. If you have a blog, write about it there. Remember, you are hiring someone who fits in with your small business, so it can be handy to contextualize your business by illustrating what you can offer in terms of growth and work culture. “Looking for a sharp developer? Attend (or even host) a hackathon” recommends Justin Beck of PerBlue games. You are an innovative small business after all! Breaking the mold is a characteristic of your company that will attract rock star interns.
Give them responsibility and encourage creativity
Contrary to popular belief, college students can still be motivated by job satisfaction rather than free snacks or a high hourly rate. Make the work meaningful from the get-go. The best interns will expect to acquire connections, knowledge and skills that can leverage their opportunities in the work force. Involve them in strategy meetings, give them a client facing role, a public speaking opportunity or big picture projects. The intern you are looking for will be motivated by challenges, not intimidated by them. With a great mentor their confidence will grow and they will achieve results within your small business.
Plan non-work activities
This should be a normal part of growing your budding team of ninjas. The best internships are not just about the job but about forming relationship with fellow interns, coworkers and executives. Meeting the right people is an advantage small businesses have because normally, all hands are on deck. Enhance your program with activities that are fun and involve team building. This can be as simple as a bowling night or a friendly competition among team mates (now is the time to make that leap and buy the ping pong table you were considering). Promote these activities as part of the package and demonstrate what type of small business you are running and how you treat your employees.
Help them craft their resume
Assign your intern’s mentor the task of helping them build their resume before they leave. All interns are looking for the next opportunity in their chosen field and a well-crafted resume shows their understanding of the role and all of the responsibilities expected of them. It will also demonstrate your faith in them and give them the confidence to get out there knowing someone is in their corner.