How To Use Interns

Here are some tips for hiring and getting the best out of a working relationship with an intern.

Widen your search

Do not limit your search local schools or just schools at all. Select the intern the same way you would hire a new employee. This includes checking social networking sites for red flags. When interviewing the prospective intern, be clear about your expectations. Specify the hours, if the position is paid and type of work involved “almost to the point of pushing them away,” advises David J.P. Fisher of RockStar Consulting in Evanston, Ill. “Interns are there to help me, not cause me more headaches.” Look for enthusiasm, not just good grades. Realize there is a risk.

To pay or not to pay

Some business owners argue strongly in favor of an hourly wage or at least a daily stipend. Others have interns lining up to work for free. If you don’t pay, make sure your interns don’t walk out empty-handed when their internship is over. “Let the interns leave your company with a portfolio of their work,” says Tara Goodwin Frier, president and CEO of The Goodwin Group Inc. in Sharon, Mass. “It shows you view your interns as professionals and want to help them further their careers by working with you.”

Be sure to give them training

Lay out each project and task in as much detail as possible. Keep in mind the intern is inexperienced and is just at the beginning of the learning curve. As part of the training, schedule regular appointments to check progress and ask questions. “You may discover the intern missed a step,” says Linda LaSala, co-founder and editor of Girlawhirl.com in Norwalk, Conn. Or, on the flip side, “Some of our interns were so shy or intimidated by the office that they never told us they were finished with the task, and just sat there waiting for us to ask them,” LaSala says.

Give big-picture projects, not just tasks

A set of tasks can become a project, depending on how you frame it. For example, instead of asking an intern to give you the names of the 10 best-selling baskets from online sites, give your intern the big picture with your plans to create gift baskets using your products and then break that project into tasks, says Julie Braun, co-founder of Super Interns in New Haven, Conn. Don’t dismiss their ideas without careful consideration. Give your intern a chance to prove a project can work. You may be amazed at the ideas and different ways of doing things an intern give you.

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