Consider Hiring an Intern

In this tough job market lots of talented people including recent college graduates and experienced, skilled women and men can not find a job that interests them or that is available. For these people my advice often is find an internship, either paid or unpaid. Bringing an intern into your organization can have all kinds of benefits including: 
      •  your financial risk in minimized. You can evaluate a potential new performer for your organization at virtually no cost.
        • you have flexibility. Neither you nor the intern expects the relationship to last forever. In the meantime you are getting an opportunity to check each other out.
        • you might find that you are bringing some exceptionally talented, high potential person into your organization. Isn't that one of your goals?

For the intern, whether paid or unpaid, the upside to the arrangement can be enormous. The intern:

  • gets his or her foot in the door with a chance to prove that you really do need to hire them with a fair compensation package
  • gets immediately into the workforce without spending another many months looking
  • develops another important line item on the resume. It's obviously much better to have some worthwhile experience on the resume vs. a lengthy period of being unemployed.
  • provides flexibility, particularly if the internship is an unpaid one. The organization adding an intern should expect the intern to need some time off to pursue a paying position. Obviously people can't work forever without being compensated. Interns we have used have always had flexible work schedules either a few days a week in the internship or interning a full work week with anticipated time-off to interview for other jobs.

I have found very few people think about pursuing an internship. Colleges are not teaching their graduates to think like this even while giving them generally poor career guidance while they are still in college. And experienced men and women never seem to think about backing off and looking for an internship. Rather than viewing the right internship as a really great new opportunity to learn, develop new relationships and add to the old resume, somehow they think that is beneath them even though. They may have been on the bricks for months. Their prospects of finding a good career opportunity getting bleaker and bleaker the longer they are not employed.

Generally we think 3 or 4 months for an unpaid or low paying internship should be enough for both sides to decide if there is a real fit between the intern and the organization. If there seems to be a fit then it's time to work through how valuable the intern can be to the organization, i.e. what is fair compensation for the skills, talents and attitude that the intern will be bringing to the equation as a full time member of the team. If the budget is still tight then maybe the only way to squeeze the intern into the organization is by having him or her replace someone else in the organization who is underperforming. In these challenging times, unfortunately, this may be the decision that the organization needs to make. But at least the experience of using the intern will have worked. The intern lands a job he or she understands and values and the organization gets a new team member that has been observed first hand.

Garden State Woman has used interns, both paid and unpaid, for years. We have had great success with the experiences. Our interns have benefitted enormously from the time we spent together. We recently had an young male intern working with us for a couple of months. He recently graduated from Colgate University with an economics degree. The only position he could find was working in a warehouse in Jersey City. We met him through his sister, also a fairly recent graduate of Colgate and who had an exciting job with a global non-profit organization with which she had interned during a summer break. We recognized her exceptional quality. When she mentioned her brother's situation we asked her to connect us. We thought maybe we could steer him to a potentially viable situation. When we met him we were blown away by his qualifications and exceptional people skills. We suggested he keep his warehouse job but see if he could work a more flexible schedule to give him a couple of days/week to work with us. He made that happen and spent the past couple of months helping both Garden State Woman and Jack's Eagle Rock Partners financial services and consulting firm. He left recently to return to Ecuador, his home country, to try out for the top professional soccer team in the country. The internship worked great for both of us. He learned a lot and is getting paid a portion of the revenues he helped us create while he was with us. He met a ton of very interesting people and got involved working on projects with real substance. I am sure we will continue to grow our relationship. Jack now says he has an office in Ecuador! If we ever launch Ecuador Womanhe would certainbly be a good anchor for us. Edgar recently sent us a follow up email that read:

"Thank you for everything you have taught me in the last two months we worked together. I cannot express how much I learned in that short period of time. I have definitely been able to grow both as an individual and as a professional. I hope to be able to stay in close contact with you and continue some form of partnership."
Make certain you are in compliance. The DOL has guidelines for appropriate ways to compensate or not compensate interns. Do your homework ahead of time to make certain you are doing things correctly.
To come up with an intern that make sense to you the fastest, best approach is to use your networking skills to reach out to the people in your network or to new people you meet every day. If you have been following Garden State Woman you already know that we are firmly committed to helping women develop and leverage their networking skills. In the past year we have held unique educational day events for well over 200 professional women looking to substantially enhance their networking strategies ands skills.To discuss developing internships and or increasing your effective networking skills please contact me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..
Last modified onTuesday, 19 March 2013 15:52
Judy Chapman

Judy Chapman founded Garden State Woman, Inc. in 1998 and the Garden State Woman Education Foundation 501(c)3 in 2007. In recognition of the need for women everywhere, including New Jersey, to take firmer control of their futures and their families’ futures - in a world that is still not equally balanced between the opportunities and rewards provided men and women - for equal efforts in many aspects of their personal and professional lives.

Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Leave a comment