One of the more interesting adventures I have had at work recently has been setting up and managing our six (yes count them six) new interns. While we have had internship programs at our company in the past, it has never been at this scale. Previous programs were simply for benefit of the students who wanted to learn and gain experience, and to support local universities. This is by far the most interns we have had at one time. I am a big fan of internships, having completed two of them myself when I was in college. I think they can provide a great deal of real world experience and they look good on a resume, not to mention they provide inexpensive labor to the company.
The first issue that will arise in putting together an internship program is actually getting interns. Sometimes posters around a college campus or a spot at the local job board is simply not enough. Lucky for us we have Tim, one of our managing partners, who happens to teach part time for a local University. This provides our company with a great avenue to spread the word and wrangle interns for our company.
The second issue is making sure potential interns understand the value proposition and what kind of internship your company offers. This starts with the company itself and the development of the program. It's important for interns to gain something besides a note on their resume. Interns can be integrated into many aspects of a businesses and provide cheap or free labor in return for real world experience, industry knowledge and sometimes college credit. All of which can be leveraged as great value propositions when trying to attract interns.
It's important to also give some thought as to what jobs or projects might be best suited for interns in your business. Some jobs might require too much experience, knowledge or training and others might be to simple or mundane. In our latest internship program, we are training our interns in several aspects of search, marketing, data, content creation and management. We then let them create content for our websites learning centers while teaching them why content creation is important. Finally, we are tracking their progress. They will also be helping with other SEO, marketing and product data related projects as the need arises and as they express interest in different areas of our business. They have already begun some of their work on both the PlumberSurplus.com Learning Center and the OutdoorPros.com Learning Center with work on our Knife Buying Guide and BlackHawk Videos. They have also started on manufacturer descriptions such as Gerber Knives and Moen and they will continue to fill out both of those content rich areas of our websites.
A couple of areas to be mindful of for an internship program is management and se tup. If possible it can be a good idea to spread out your interns throughout multiple departments making it so that one person does not bear the brunt of the management or organization. If that is not something that you want to do, getting them to come in at the same time or on the same days can also help. Getting everything setup for the interns ahead of time, such as the list of projects, any paperwork, training and computers can be key so that time is not wasted and your interns can start off on a good foot at your business.
While the interns still have several weeks to go, everything seems to be going well and they are expressing interest and getting excited about many aspects of our business. In closing, remember to never forget that an internship program can also be a great recruiting tool, not only are they great for all of the items mentioned above but they go far beyond the standard interview so that the company gets a better idea of a persons work ethic and personality for potential future hire.