5 Tips for Creating an Internship Program

Think you’re too small to consider hiring an intern? Think again. You can offer interns a hands-on experience that they can use to build their resume. In return, you gain an asset that can help grow your business. Get these tips for creating an internship program for your small business.

How Interns Add Value

There are a number of ways interns can add value to your business. First, they widen your talent pool. Interns bring a fresh perspective that can generate new solutions to old problems. Often, that includes their knowledge of technology. Second, you may be grooming your next employee. In fact, the National Association of Colleges and Employers reports that over half of interns move on to full time positions in the same company. And their five-year retention rates are high.

But one word of caution—some businesses mistakenly think an intern’s addition to the labor pool will free them up to do other things. It won’t. It will take resources to train and supervise the intern. So you need to plan for that. The value isn’t extra labor but additional talent. A temporary employee is likely a better solution if you’re trying to fix an over-capacity problem.

5 Tips for Creating Your Own Internship Program

Think your business might benefit from an intern? Consider these guidelines as you create your internship program: 

  • Clearly identify the internship opportunity – Have a specific reason for bringing on an intern. For example, say you want a greater social media presence and need someone who can help you develop a social media plan. Using a statement of purpose can help you set expectations early and recruit someone with that skill set.
  • Recruit on their turf – Tap the resources of your local college’s career office to recruit for an intern. They can help you promote your opportunity to students. Invite them out to your business to see the opportunity firsthand. Some career centers may let you present to classes or participate in career fairs attended by interested students. When you talk to students, emphasize what’s in it for them. Flexible work scheduling can be a draw for students who want to continue taking classes.
  • Have a robust orientation – Just like when you hire a new employee, interns need an orientation program too. It might include information about the company, policies, and procedures. You might create an intern handbook patterned after your employee version. Don’t forget to hold an orientation for your current staff. Everyone should be on the same page about the role of interns and what you expect.
  • Create a training schedule – A training schedule helps create predictability. That can be reassuring to an intern stepping into what might be their first exposure to a professional job. It also helps you set their level of activity. For example, pick a task that requires less than an hour of training and make that their first day’s assignment. They can end the day knowing they made an immediate contribution. As the internship progresses, you can gradually add more responsibility based on the training schedule.
  • Schedule regular one-on-one sessions – Interns are likely to have lots of questions (it’s what makes them so valuable). So you want to provide structured opportunities to talk individually with them. You can answer questions, address concerns, provide insight, and hopefully learn from them too. The sessions don’t always have to be with you. You might pair them occasionally with a seasoned employee who can provide a different perspective.

Internships can be a valuable way to extend your talent pool into new areas. But in order to maximize that benefit, you need to be willing to devote the resources to realize its value. Start with these tips to develop your own internship program.

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