"Hiring" a summer intern can be a win-win experience.
Garden State Woman just recruited Dana as a summer intern and fully expects it to be a win-win experience for her and for us. We have typically brought an intern aboard for a few months most summers. Almost without exception it worked out great for everyone.
Finding the right intern
There is no one way to find a quality summer intern. They can be spotted by inquiring at the various colleges in the area and by talking with people in your networks who may have young people they know who are looking to have a productive summer.
In our most recent case we ran an ad in mid April for a part time marketing person or intern on Craigs List. Dana responded along with a bunch of others. Without exception the other people answering our ad did a terrible job with their responses. This surprised us since usually we have good luck recruiting full and part time people on Craigs List (except for sales people, they are always the hardest to find).
Dana's response was short, to the point and flawless. She attached her resume indicating she was just completing her second year at Susquehanna University. She lives in Long Valley where Garden State Woman is located so our location was one appeal. Dana is a communications major and connecting with a multi-media company serving New Jersey women, like Garden State Woman, was a good fit for her professionally.
We had a phone call and arranged to meet in early May when Dana ended her classes for the year. The meeting went great and we all quickly agreed to start working together. Hopefully Dana will be with us until mid July when she leaves for a semester of studying abroad in Australia – good for her!
The point is, if you want to bring an intern into your organization for all or part of the summer you should try to find the right candidate using a bunch of approaches.
Once you have one successful summer internship under your belt that intern may well turn out to be a future pipeline to the college or university he or she came from.
Making the internship mutually workable and valuable
We have had successful internship experiences based on a few key factors:
- Pick the right intern. That sounds obvious but unless you spend enough time interviewing, explaining your situation and learning about the applicant it is pretty easy to be overly enthusiastic and make a poor choice.
- Agree up front on the intern's schedule so there are no surprises. In our case, because I am out of the office a lot, it makes sense for our plan with Dana to be highly flexible. She is comfortable with this type schedule where we often make decisions about having her come in on a day to day and week to week basis.
- Have the intern do meaningful things and not act simply as a "gopher". When you recruit a talented young person to join your team during the summer you have a responsibility to really make it a meaningful experience for him or her. By doing this you also increase the benefit your organization gets from having the intern work with you.
In our case I aim to have Dana participate in almost any key meetings I have, which is probably 5 to 10 in a typical week. Allowing the intern to be exposed to as many real life situations and high quality people as possible in a few months is usually a real eye opener for him or her.
Along with your efforts to expose the intern to important projects and relationships, hold him or her accountable for accomplishing important things in a high quality, timely way. Treat the relationship seriously. If you expect a lot you will likely get a lot.
Provide constructive criticism on the projects that they complete, but do not forget to give positive feedback as well. A lot of employers might think that if they tell the intern how great they are all the time they won't learn anything, but Dana has expressed that this positive feedback only motivates her to do even better and provides self confidence.
- Provide consistent coaching to the intern. That's a real benefit to him or her and it helps insure that their performance while with you is constantly improving. For example, when they first join us almost no young person has their own business cards. Dana went on Vista Print and designed and ordered her first ever cards before the end of her first week with us. They turned out to be really terrific. Encourage your intern to speak up and ask questions at meetings and to follow up quickly after talking or meeting with the people to whom you connect the intern.
In addition to this, continue to ask your intern each day if they have learned something new. If the answer continues to be "yes", this lets you know that you are providing a great learning experience for the intern as well as lets them know that you truly care about their growth and improvement.
Whenever possible we like to connect our interns with good people we know working in the interns' area of interest re: a future career. For example, within the first week of Dana being with us we were able to arrange a breakfast meeting with a young woman and a good family friend who is a recent communications major graduate of a large Big 10 college who is now working in NY with one of the world's biggest and best PR firms. Her guidance and feedback to Dana was invaluable in terms of what working in a high power PR firm is really like and what steps Dana can be taking in her junior and senior years to better position herself for a future communications industry career.
- Pay the intern. A lot of organizations bring interns in for the summer and then don't pay them. In this terrible job market getting any meaningful job, even an unpaid one for the summer, is tough. So organizations can take advantage of the intern's motivation and need to get some real life experience by having them work for the "experience" and maybe some college credits.
How much and how often you pay the intern can vary all over the place from small weekly checks to one larger check at the end of the summer of working together, or a combination of the two.
We like to delay making a paying decision until we have some experience working together and the intern's value becomes more apparent to both of us.
The point is being fair.
I can't see any downside to recruiting a summer intern
Bringing new blood into an organization is almost always a good shot in the arm.
If you do a good selection job recruiting and working with a summer intern for a few months it can really be an exceptional experience for everyone. There is a very strong likelihood that you will be spending quality time with a high energy, highly motivated young person with exceptional web based and social media abilities that can always be used productively in any organization.
Working with interns is obviously one way to find quality full time team members when the intern graduates and you both decide he or she is a good permanent fit with your organization.
Furthermore, you will get real personal satisfaction out of having a very positive impact on a young person's personal and professional development.
I am a firm believer in the power of giving vs. getting. We really emphasize this point in the workshops Garden State Woman hosts on Networking and Relationship Development. You might enjoy a recently published book that focuses on this concept: Adam Grant's Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success.
An Action Step
If you have need for a summer intern or possibly know of a young person looking for such an opportunity send me some details and we will try to match the companies and the interns in search of a valuable summer experience. Judy Chapman,
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