how to hire a college intern
Hire A College Intern
by Tara Kachaturoff
Starting up a new venture or business can be one of the most exciting times of your life. It can also be one of the most STRESSFUL. If you’re a solo entrepreneur, you’re wearing many hats –- in fact, you’re probably wearing all of them. Not only are you selling your product or service, you’re marketing it, doing the accounting, paying the bills, answering the phones, designing and updating your website, and preparing and sending out mail. And, certainly for your own business, you can easily think of ten or fifteen additional tasks to be done in addition to these. Once your business begins to grow, wearing all the hats becomes impossible. But cash flow is often not what you would like it to be — and you may not have room for a full-time EMPLOYEE.
A better way
One quick and easy solution is to hire a college INTERN. During my corporate career in finance, I made use of many college interns over the years. Not only were they diligent, responsible, and some of the best employees, they were eager to learn and to CONTRIBUTE ideas. My interns were reliable and many of them hired on as regular employees after graduating from college. And with more and more college students choosing to start their own businesses rather than working for others, having a first-hand opportunity to work in a business start-up, like yours, might be just what they’re looking for. So how can you find an intern that will be just right for you and your business?
What can the intern do?
One of the first things to do is to take a clean sheet of paper and begin writing down all the TASKS that you perform in your business -– and I mean everything. Next, decide what tasks you absolutely need to do yourself and which ones might be ASSIGNED to an intern.
Typical tasks that you do might include:
- data entry
- preparing mass mailings
- updating your marketing or business plan
- keeping your marketing calendar current
- writing marketing collateral
- updating website information
- confirming appointments and calling on prospects
- appearing at trade shows
- supply shopping, post office, and other errands
- reviewing periodicals and article clipping
- attending networking events
- answering phones
Once you’ve drafted a comprehensive list of tasks, determine which of these tasks can be assigned to someone else. This will become the basis for writing up a job DESCRIPTION for your intern.
Draft a job description
Write up a simple job description that includes a list of tasks you need completed on a WEEKLY basis. Also, estimate how much TIME these tasks will take and, if possible, what days of the week might be best for someone to work for you.
What type of intern?
My suggestion is to hire a college intern who has BACKGROUND in the areas that you most need help with. For example, if your start-up is heavily focused on using computer technology to either produce your product or service, or if it is a significant part of the interface with your clients, hire an intern who is studying computer science. On the other hand, if you have a business focusing on delivering corporate sales training programs, hire a marketing major. If you have general office work that needs to be done, consider a business administration student.
To pay or not to pay?
That is the question. Nowadays, interns are readily available for pay or no pay. The hiring market for new college graduates is rather strained so they know that any and all work EXPERIENCE they gain prior to graduation will serve them well in the future.
Offer benefits other than money
Money is not the “be all, end all” of a relationship with your intern. Many interns are looking to learn new skills which can best be learned in a real-life scenario. They also know the importance of NETWORKING and the possibilities that might accrue by meeting the right person at the right time. In addition, if they really enjoy the experience (and you do, too), they’ll want you to write them a letter of recommendation or serve as a REFERENCE in the future.
There are other ways you can “compensate” your intern. Consider developing a COACHING program for them which entails teaching them your business in an organized manner. Teach them the steps of creating a business from scratch. By having them assist with all aspects of the business, you may be opening up the door for them to start their own. Or consider offering them COMMISSION based compensation based upon product or service sales they close on their own. Or, you might design an internship where they can earn college CREDIT. Contact the appropriate faculty member in charge of credit-based internship programs to see if you might be able to create a development program which will fulfill some of their elective credit hour requirements.
Before you’re ready to contact your local college or university to place the advertisement for an intern, make sure you have the following information ready:
- your name, company name, and address
- telephone number and fax number
- email address
- list of expected TASKS
- expected days and hours to be worked
- hourly RATE of pay or negotiable rate
- type of college MAJOR desired
- how best to contact you and what to send
Contact career services
Once you’ve gathered all the necessary information, contact the career services center of several local colleges and universities. They will either give you online access to a system where you can POST your job description information, or you can simply provide them with the information and they will do it for you. Once your listing is approved, it will be made available for students to access.
Gather resumes and start interviewing
Allow your advertisement to be posted for at least two weeks. Start sorting through resumes right away to see who might be the best FIT. Begin setting up interviews immediately to find the best candidate for the position.
Ask both closed and open-ended questions. Closed-ended questions require a “yes” or “no” answer, whereas open-ended questions request explanation and ELABORATION. Find out about their prior work experience. Ask for examples of how they’ve handled particular situations, all while carefully evaluating their communication skills. You might even ask for a copy of one their class papers to assess their writing skills. Make sure that you are COMFORTABLE with them in every aspect. After all, you will be entrusting them with your top priority -– your business.
You might consider asking your intern to fill out a weekly status report which TRACKS the assignments completed, including how much time each task required. It will give the intern a sense of ACCOMPLISHMENT with respect to their contributions, while providing you with useful information about what has been completed.
Enjoy the benefits
There’s so much to gain from building relationships with others. While the intern is learning from you, you’ll be surprised at how much you will LEARN from him or her. Encourage them to take ownership and pride in what they are doing, praise and acknowledge them frequently for jobs well done, and WELCOME their comments, criticisms, and contributions.
A great resource
Using college interns to help you with your business is not only a COST-EFFECTIVE way to get things done, but it’s a wonderful way to contribute to the knowledge and experience of someone who might very well follow in your footsteps. In any case, it can be a win-win situation for everyone.
Ready to hire a college intern….. College.Monster.com
Tara Alexandra Kachaturoff is an executive coach, trainer, consultant and professional speaker with over 15 years of corporate experience. She coaches executives, professionals, and entrepreneurs on leadership, business and lifestyle issues and has been featured in radio, print, and television. She is the owner of CoachPoint™. You may visit her website at www.virtualleverage.com.
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