Lots of small businesses and people in them say they don’t have time for an intern. They view the process as lengthy, complicated and slow. This hasn’t been my experience. Below I discuss my company, why to use interns and how it grew my business.
Interns are Professionals
The students I taught at the NH Institute of Art (NHIA) were fantastic; I could see how smart they were and they challenged me creatively. Other small business owners seemed to think hiring an intern was risky, but I was seeing what students were doing at their internships through yearly reviews at NHIA. Their work was professional quality.
Upon further investigation, those who didn’t pay interns held the opinion that interns were low quality. When asked during portfolio reviews, the students who produced the best work indicated they were paid. Additionally, “Companies should be aware that many smart candidates are likely to be highly skeptical of unpaid internships.”
To get the most professional work, you have to treat the student interns like professionals. This makes sense. Students with paid internships don’t have to work a job on top of working an internship and going to school. They are able to dedicate more time, brain space and creativity to the internship when it is paid. Unpaid internships ultimately cost the interns money.
Today’s research shows the up and coming workforce is at an economic disadvantage. Cost of living has increased while minimum wage has not done so at the same rate. If you want the best students, pay them a liveable wage. Most pushing for a livable wage think $15/hr is acceptable.
Interns are Technological Entrepreneurs
The young workforce has grown up with computers, unlike most of today’s business owners. They type with multiple fingers, know how to edit photographs, write blog posts and understand monetization of websites and YouTube channels. The people they look up to are not necessarily Hollywood starlets. Their idols are more often every day people who created a gaming/cooking/makeup channel that was done well. Those individuals monetized it with commercials and sponsorships.
This entrepreneurial spirit permeates today’s young people. I have 2nd graders asking me how to sell their art on Etsy. They understand what monetization means and they are pursuing something they are good at or interested in. If a young person is entering your field, they are passionate, good with technology, and thinking about business growth, even if their educational path hasn’t been business-focused. This was true when I oversaw my first intern working for someone else in 2010 and is true today with the interns I hire.
Interns Make You Stronger
Hire interns where your skills are the weakest – they will make you better. For example, I’m not really a writer. Sure, you can read and understand the words I’ve put down, but I only have a basic understanding. My intern, Shanna Shotwell, is a writer. She reads my lesson plans and cringes at sentence structure and typos. The plans work well in my head, but maybe not to another person. My lessons are smoother for my teachers, more understandable for my studio manager and assistant and the lesson jokes better. Shanna maintained my snarky voice, but really polished things up. She will edit this post, too (you are the best, Shanna. Keep it up!).
When you are a small business, you often don’t write out strong procedures and practices, sometimes called SOPs. I often muddle through and alternate methods without realizing how this might affect my employees. Lots of employees put their heads down, complain about their boss and go home without confronting it.
Interns are so enthusiastic and fresh they will throw up a red flag when something changes. Their lack of confidence (that we all had when we were first starting out) helps me realize when I’ve changed something that only works for me, not for everyone else. Interns will ask that annoying question. If you take a moment and consider where their question originated, you will see that addressing the question in a method altering manner will strengthen your business. Their questions reflect where your business is weak, not where the intern is weak.
Interns Become Employees
My interns come back to work for me. I want that. I try to be open with them about the business, how we are growing and what our long term plans are. I listen to feedback, incorporate it and help with their long term goals.
For example, Shanna wanted to get some social media experience. She wrote this post and has now been exposed to you as readers and future employers. She will grow past my organization one day and work for you.
Everyone will grow past me and my company, that is the nature of owning a business. Rather than fight it, help interns avoid the mistakes you made starting in the workforce and provide tools to gain the skills they need to move on. It makes a better corporate culture and employees and interns feel valued.
Yes, you will need to hire someone to replace them one day. You would do that sooner if you didn’t help them along their path. If you help them grow, they put off leaving you longer. It’s selfish, really.
Interns Start in a Few Weeks for Spring
All the colleges have internship programs. Hands-on learning has become a standard practice in higher education. Contact the school nearest you to become involved now! Finals are upon those of us in higher education and the next semester starts mid-January.
Paid internships have less paperwork. You just have to be insured and prove it to the school, and you have to provide feedback in the middle and end of the semester. You want to have your internship posted and available now so that you can interview them in time for the semester to start. If you find one fast, they may even return to school early and work with you before the semester starts. I recommend it.
Finally, please don’t hire all the interns. Leave some good ones for me.
About the Author
Amber Nicole is a professional Muse and owns Unchartered Tutoring (We are hiring). She helps others reach their creative goals through private lessons, guidance and collaboration. That means she is an artist, teacher and entrepreneur. She has a BFA from the Cleveland Institute of Art in Biomedical Art, teaches typography at the New Hampshire Institute of Art and creates scientific, medical and technical designs for her clients at BioSci Creative. She is the former president of the New Hampshire Creative Club.