Will an Intern Help Your Small Business? You Bet!

The purpose of the Insights blog is to help businesses save time and money. And of course that makes a lot of sense. If you know anything about my pals here at Concur, you know that their software is almost beyond compare when it comes to helping businesses save time and money.

But this then begs the question: How does one save time and money and remain as efficient as possible? Let me suggest that one easy way, especially this time of year, is to bring in interns. With summer around the corner, now is the time to begin to plan for a summer internship program.

Like you I am sure, I had my share of internships back in the day.

Best one: Shadowing a labor leader in San Francisco for a month, watching him negotiate contracts, deal with his troops, and move through a fascinating political and economic landscape. Worst internship: Walking into a newspaper, having them say “who are you and why are you here?” before eventually spending six hours a day in an empty office with no assignments and nothing to do. (I sure read a lot of newspapers over those few weeks though.)

When done right, internships can be an incredibly useful and affordable way to grow a business. I know one startup that has 10 interns but only two employees. Talk about saving money! The president jokingly says that his business has been “built on the back of interns” but I also know that he always treats them right, gives them plum assignments, and eventually sends them on their way with a great letter and recommendation.

To create your own successful summer internship program, consider these tips:

Plan the internship out ahead of time: Plan for what the intern will do, who he or she will report to, and what will be their expected work product.

Have a liaison: The intern needs someone in the organization to be the point person, and similarly, the organization needs to have one person assigned to the task of handling the intern(s). It works altogether smoother that way.

Give real assignments: It behooves neither of you to waste the intern’s time. Real and valuable assignments help them help you.

Make it social: The more you can include the intern in the social side of work – after-hours drinks for instance, maybe a day at the ballpark – the better and more fun the experience will be for everyone.

Don’t let it end on the last day: You should write two letters after the internship is over. One: A letter of reference. Two: A letter to the intern, sharing your assessment of their work, and giving a valuable critique. It will be very appreciated.

It’s a win-win. For the business, hiring one or more interns is a way to bring in some very eager workers, people who can hopefully do some necessary (if not important) work, without breaking the bank. For the intern, it’s a chance to sharpen the saw, learn some new skills, stuff their resume, be useful, and hopefully meet some people who can help them down the road (and not waste 120 hours in an empty office).


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