For business owners on a budget, interns may seem like a great way to increase the company's labor force without spending a ton of cash.
(article continues below)
In a way, that's what interns are - free (or less expensive) semi-skilled labor. But internships also entail a host of responsibilities that you need to consider before you hit campus and start recruiting.
Interns need to be given meaningful work.
Some small business owners operate under the misconception that interns should be willing to work 40+ hours a week assembling widgets on the factory floor. Think again! Remember, internships are designed to be a learning experience for the intern. In order for them to learn, you're going to need to give them meaningful work experiences. If you aren't willing to trust interns with more than making copies and fetching coffee, then you're probably not ready for an internship program.
Assign projects to interns.
You know that project you've been meaning to do, but just haven't had the time to get off the ground? Internships offer a wonderful opportunity to get started on projects that have been simmering on the back burner. With just a little preparation and supervision interns can usually step up to the plate and deliver results that meet or exceed your expectations. Internship advisors also like projects because they are a convenient way to assess an intern's performance.
Interns take time.
Another common misconception is that interns require the same amount of supervision as the company's other employees. In fact, interns require more supervision than other employees because they need to be mentored. If your business is a small operation, you will probably have to fill the role of a mentor yourself. In slightly larger operations, you may be able to assign the mentoring task to an experienced employee. Either way, you need to be prepared for the added time demands an internship program involves.
Interns often make great full-time employees.
It's not uncommon for an internship to be a launching pad for a career with your small business. Internships give you the opportunity to assess an individual's skills and see how well they work with your other employees. If you are satisfied with your intern's performance, you'd be a fool not to consider hiring them if there is a position that needs to be filled.
If an internship program sounds right for your small business, there's nothing magical about getting started. Contact a nearby university's internship office to inquire about becoming an approved worksite. If your university doesn't have an internship office, your best bet is to contact the appropriate academic department.