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Posted at 03:15 AM ET, 09/11/2012

Need a hand? How to build and promote an internship program for your business

Every other week, On Small Business reaches out to a panel of young entrepreneurs for answers to some of the most pressing social media and technology questions facing small business owners. The following responses are provided by members of the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), a nonprofit organization comprised of entrepreneurs.

Q: Most small firms could use some extra help around the office. So how can employers build and promote an internship program?


A strong team of interns can be a powerful asset. Here are some tips for recruiting young, often inexpensive talent. (J.D. Harrison)

Aaron Schwartz, founder and chief executive of Modify Watches in Berkeley, California:

The key to a building a successful internship program is investing in your interns as if they were full-time resources. Focus time and energy on on-boarding; think through all of the materials you would want your team to read before and during their time at the company, and set goals as if you were worrying about their year-end bonuses.

We erred at the beginning of our program by assuming that our interns knew more about the company than they really did. For a while, this led to a frustrated team – they did not know their priorities! Equally painful to our startup, our inattention to aligning our team created more work for the full-time employees, as we had to make up for lost time and correct ‘bad’ habits.

Time and money are scarce resources at a startup. You should only take on as many interns as you are confident you can manage without distracting you from your full-time work. Build your program for the long-term and give each intern an incredible experience. You will build your program from each batch of part-time teammates; great resources will recommend other great interns in the future.”

Nikki Robinson, founder and chief executive of Gloss and Glam in New York, New York:

If you want to build an internship program, the first step is to define a clear set of goals for your potential intern. Not only can a knowledge-hungry college student benefit your business, but they can also learn a lot from you as well. For example, are you looking for someone to perform tasks for your company while receiving college credit, or are you looking for an intern to train to become a future employee? If you’re considering hiring recent college graduates for your company, consider picking an intern that could end up working for your company; this will save you time since you won’t have to train another person for the role.

As we all know, time is money. Promoting internships is incredibly easy, as almost every college student is looking for one. Reach out to local colleges, because lots of them require an internship to graduate. There are also tons of internship websites that can help advertise your need for an intern, like FreeInternships.com and Intern Sushi. It is very important to remember that while your interns are helping you complete work, they will still need training, mentoring and guidance throughout their journey with your company.

Erika London, co-founder of iAdventure.com in New York, New York:

Creating an internship program for your business could be one of the most valuable things you invest your time into if you do it right. Essentially, you’re creating a program that should ideally be mutually beneficial to both the business and the interns. Sit down and think of everything and anything you would trust your potential interns to work on and handle -- things like cold calling, research, brainstorming, editing, basic content creation, errands, etc.

Interns must be included in all team meetings and must be given a taste of what it would be like to actually work for your company. They must be given enough responsibility and must feel appreciated so that they continue to put in the effort you’d expect them to. As a startup, interns must understand the opportunity they have to grow with the company and potential to become an employee.

Promoting an internship program is as easy as contacting the career services departments at all of your local colleges and discussing their internship program qualifications. If you’re offering a competitive internship experience and able to meet the school’s qualifications, they will be more than happy to send you eager interns that could potentially even receive school credit for working with your business.

Follow the YEC and On Small Business on Twitter.

The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only nonprofit organization comprised of the world's most promising young entrepreneurs. The YEC recently published #FixYoungAmerica: How to Rebuild Our Economy and Put Young Americans Back to Work (for Good), a book of 30+ proven solutions to help end youth unemployment.

Do you have questions you would like to see answered by these young entrepreneurs? Share them with us in the comments below or via email and we’ll pass them along to the YEC for future series.

By  |  03:15 AM ET, 09/11/2012

Tags:  small business, advice

 
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