By: Kate Harrison, Contributor
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While there’s a lot of negative pressat the moment regarding student internships, for small and under-funded companies, having good interns can make all the difference — especially if they don’t have to be paid. In 2012, two-thirds of internships were unpaid — and the majority of those were for college credit. Internships are an essential part of many schools’ curriculums. In addition to skill building and resume enhancement, internship positions often evolve into real jobs for students down the line. If you are open to hiring interns before graduation, an internship-for-credit program can be the ultimate win-win for the students and your company.
As I have learned over time, getting great interns is all about timing and organization. As soon as the holiday frenzy settles down, students start planning their next semester. If you want your company to be part of those plans (and you do!), you need to start prepping ASAP. Here is a step-by-step guide to recruiting the best and brightest for your company this spring.
Advance planning is the key to a successful internship program for both you and the students you will hire. The best internships are project-based — with clear goals, timelines and deliverables — and have a dedicated supervisor with whom the intern meets regularly and reports to directly. Meet with you staff to see who would like interns and brainstorm about the types of projects you might have them do. You will need staff buy-in and pre-planning to have a successful semester.
Step 2: Set The Schedule
If you are going to recruit credit-only interns you will need to think carefully about the amount of time your projects will take. Most internships are between 100 and 150 hours over the course of ten weeks. Having some in-office hours is very important, as interns do require supervision, and regular and direct feedback is essential, especially in the first couple of weeks of the internship. That said, schools all have strange course schedules and the more flexible you can be about when the bulk of each interns’ hours will occur, the better. Many schools do not have classes on Fridays, so at The Green Life Guides we tried to have all of our interns in for a half day Friday, making orientation, group trainings and parties easier. We also worked around their schedules, especially exams, for the other hours they worked throughout the week. I also recommend having one no interns day at the office, to allow for more focused meetings with your team.
Step 3: Define The Positions
Recruiting interns is easier if you have clearly defined job descriptions. Sometimes this can mean breaking a traditional job into multiple positions. For example, instead of having a social media and marketing intern you might have a social media intern, a PR intern, and a direct response intern. They will work together and will probably be supervised by the same person, but they will each be responsible for one aspect of a task. This allows for better focus, and your interns will come away with a distinct skill set in that area. It is nice for your company if you can hire someone who already has some of the skills you are looking for, but if you can make sure each intern learns at least one new resume-worthy skill, your openings will be more attractive to perspective students and the colleges you recruit at. Don’t forget to include a description of your business, the culture and why working for you will be exciting and rewarding.
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