Many entrepreneurs hear the word “intern” and think, “Great, cheap labor!” However, for the managers who are required to work alongside those interns, their response can often be, “I don’t have time to manage an intern!”
However, finding the right intern for your organization doesn’t have to be painful, and it could even be the next great decision for building your business. Kelli Thomason, Director of Recruiting Operations for HireBetter, admits that she was one of those managers who was approached about bringing on an intern and she was skeptical about taking on the task. “I said, ‘I know we can keep her busy, but I’m not sure I have the time to manage her the way I want to.’” Kelli, like most people, had heard questionable feedback about the millennial generation and was especially hesitant to work with a member of the generation that has a reputation for–well–not being the hardest working generation.
Yet, with her summer intern, she learned that her fears were unfounded and that she may even have a job candidate in the making. “She was such a great resource, and at a reasonable cost!,” says Thomason. “She was so good, in fact, that we offered her a part-time position to stay on during the school year. I’m already scouting out my next intern who I hope will be just as amazing.”
This success, however, was a two-way street. Not only was the intern hungry, passionate, and eager to join the team, Thomason made sure she created a culture that was motivating and meaningful; not just another internship. Interns may get a bad rep, but to be fair, internships as a whole aren’t always highly motivating. Thomason’s goal was to improve that model, and her success proved to her that hiring an intern was one of the best decisions she made for her department.
Whether you are hesitant or hopeful about bringing on an intern, here are a few guidelines to follow:
1 – Know where the referral is coming from. If the intern has strong, trusted referral sources, it’s more likely they are going to be a good addition to the team. Develop strong relationships with college career centers. These career counselors know their students, and once you build a strong relationship with them, they will feed you the best candidates.
2 – Make the work meaningful. Provide your intern with opportunities to learn about your business, shadow you, and take on projects they might learn from. Even if they end up not liking a certain area of the business, it will be a great opportunity for both of you to learn where their skillsets and passions lie.
3 – Check in with your intern. Have regular check-ins with your intern, just as you would with any employee. This shows them they are a valued member of the team and gives you both an opportunity to talk about their progress and address any learning opportunities they may have faced. This allows you to build a trusting relationship that helps the intern’s learning process and keeps them invested in their role.
Thomason admits she had doubts about managing a “millennial intern,” but she believes the negative perception of Millennials could be said of any generation. Research shows there are few generational differences in the workplace. There are less productive people addicted to their phones at all ages, just as there are stand-out superstars at all ages. With the right guidance and an environment to grow, an intern with a lot of talent could be the beginning of a long-term, dedicated employee who will help your business grow for years to come.