Sooner or later, most small businesses will think about starting an internship program.
Interns have a lot of benefits for small companies, especially when they are plugged into a carefully organized internship program.
Unfortunately a lot of entrepreneurs are disappointed with their interns, largely because they fail to recognize the difference between interns and permanent hires. Although it's important to give your interns meaningful work experiences, it's also important to modify your expectations and recognize their limitations. If you're counting on your interns to perform at the same level as a seasoned veteran, you will set them up for failure.
Looking back, there are some things business owners wish they knew before they hired interns. Hindsight is 20/20 and you can benefit from the lessons other business owners learned the hard way.
- Expect the occasional disaster. No matter how thoroughly you recruit and screen your interns, from time to time you'll bring on an intern who is a complete disaster. To be fair, internships give young people the opportunity to explore career options and test their skills in a real-world business environment. When an intern fails to achieve, don't get upset. Instead, use the experience to facilitate the individual's personal and career development.
- Interns translate into more work for you. One of the biggest misconceptions regarding internship programs is that they offload work from owners and key staff. In fact, internships usually have the opposite effect. Young and inexperienced interns frequently require more handholding and micromanagement than permanent hires.
- Interns don't know their way around the workplace. Every workplace has unique policies, procedures and personalities. When a new intern joins your business, it's usually their first experience in an office environment. More often than not, they will stumble through the workplace completely unaware of office etiquette and politics. It's not uncommon for interns to be involved in the kind of workplace drama you usually try to avoid at all costs.
- Expect diverse outcomes. Anticipate huge swings in the quality of work you will receive from interns. Some highly capable interns will surprise you by producing better deliverables than your permanent employees. Others will produce work that is borderline, at best. Don't put yourself in the position of relying on an intern for a mission-critical project or a project that has a tight deadline.