Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Interns: How to Hire and Manage Them

It's internship season! Could you benefit from an intern on your staff? This post explains how to create an internship position in your company and includes some warnings. 
Never let your intern operate heavy equipment without a license...
especially if they can't see out the window.
What is an Internship?
Internships are supervised work experience opportunities that allow students or recent graduates to gain valuable on-the-job experience. An internship might last a few weeks, a few months, or even a year. An internship might be paid or unpaid. The purpose of an internship is to allow a student an inside look at an industry, and, in exchange, the intern will help out with jobs that no one else wants to do: organizing the library, assembling media kits, or mucking the barn.

The Costs of an Intern
An intern is a liability to a company, so before hiring an intern, a company needs to figure out who will supervise the intern, what the intern will do, how many hours a week will the intern be expected to work, where the intern will sit, and who gets to give jobs to the intern.

Internships cost companies money, even if the intern is working for "free." Some costs involved include:
  • the cost and time to advertise for, interview, hire an intern
  • the cost and time to train the intern
  • the time spent supervising and mentoring the intern
  • possible insurance costs for taking on an intern
  • space and equipment for the intern: desk? computer? special equipment?
  • field-specific safety training that the intern may need to do
  • and some internships must be paid positions, as required by law
Examine these costs before moving ahead with hiring an intern.

Benefits of Hiring an Intern 

An internship can be considered akin to a long job interview. Law firms figured out long ago that by hiring "summer associates" (the law firm version of law school interns), they could use the summer internship as a long job interview. Law firms can observe how well the lawyers-in-training get along with the other lawyers, the secretaries, the paralegals. They can monitor their web habits and see where they surf once office hours are over. They can hold social engagements and observe how much each summer associate drinks, how well they mingle, and whether they would be a good ambassador for the firm. To be sure, summer associates are paid very well for their summer work, but in the end, this investment lowers a law firm's chances of hiring someone who becomes a liability to the firm ethically or legally.

Developing an internship program at your company allows for interns to cycle in and out on a regular basis, taking away the need to constantly figure out how to supervise, train, and delegate work to an intern. These jobs will become part of the fabric of the company itself, and the interns will be folded into the activities of the organization quickly.

Some companies hire long-term interns and hire only 1 or 2 interns as full-time employees at the end of the internship. Usually, when a student comes out of an intense internship experience, the student can use that experience to find another job. The experience is a win-win for the company and the student.

One benefit of an internship is that they end. They give the employer and the intern a terminal point at which time either the employer can offer a job to the intern or they can part ways. Or, the intern can say thank you and move on to other things.
An internship does not need to be glamorous and the work itself may be quite boring or ugly, but the experience does need to provide an element of learning.

Creating an Internship and Finding the Right Intern
If you are ready to take on an intern, you could contact your local university's career center, who can guide you in developing the internship position or program and help you find your first intern.

Do you take on interns? Or, are you an intern? Are you being supervised properly?

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