Should you consider an internship program?
Wednesday, May 03, 2017
It's almost summer break, so it's time for your business to start preparing. For what, you might ask? Summer interns.
While not all internships are during the summer, it is one of the best times to bring on an intern (or set of interns). If you do not currently have an internship program in place, now is the time to start creating one. Internship programs are highly valuable to businesses, and interns can gain the experience employers need.
Plus, if you don't bring on interns, you are missing out on potential talent. Did you know that both Bill Gates and Steven Spielberg (just to name a couple) started off their careers as interns?
Creating an internship program and bringing on people with no experience can be intimidating, but take it from us, it's worth it. In summer 2012, MultiBriefs hired on their first set of interns — and I was one of them. My internship led to a full-time position, and I am not the only success story. The internship program has brought on seven full-time employees, five of whom are still with the company.
The internship program has proven to be "one of the highest return on investments that we have," according to Steve Brittain, director of publishing at MultiBriefs.
How does it benefit the business?
Creating and sustaining an internship program will require additional resources, but benefits outweigh the costs. Internship programs allow a business to test out an employee before they make the long-term commitment of hiring them.
During an internship, the intern will need to be trained and mentored. Thus, the internship program can also benefit your other employees by giving them the opportunity to assist in training.
"I think a bigger benefit to your company are the mentorship opportunities that internships afford to your current staff," Brittain said. "Allowing current workers to coach, train and guide these interns is great for their career development, too."
While internship programs should not be created for the sole purpose of cheap labor, interns offer the business extra hands during busy times or when multiple employees are out on vacation.
If the intern is hired on after the internship, the business again benefits because their newest full-time employee is already knowledgeable about the organization and experienced in the day-to-day responsibilities of the position.
How does it benefit the intern?
Soon-to-be college graduates don't always know what they want to do with their degrees. Some might have an idea, but they don't know what the job will actually be like. Taking an internship allows them to get hands-on experiences and determine if the job is right for them.
"For the intern, it's obviously the exposure to the real-world aspects of the industry they're trying to break into," Brittain said. "Seeing the day-to-day operations and participating in the work are two aspects that simply can't be duplicated in a classroom."
Fresh graduates with no experience may be timid and lack confidence in their skills, and that will show when they are searching for a career. So even if the intern decides the job isn't for them full-time, it gives him/her the experience that most employers require.
Ross Lancaster, the other "first intern" and now full-time MultiBriefs employee, interned at Fox Sports Southwest in high school. The experience was beneficial, even though it wasn't for him.
"It actually wasn't great, and it made me realize that I might not want to go into the broadcast side of media," Lancaster said.
Internships give the opportunity to explore.
What should you consider when creating an internship program?
Should you target a certain age group?
According to statistics from the National Association of Colleges and Employers, 83.4 percent of internship programs were designed to recruit entry-level candidates. While that doesn't mean they only want entry-level candidates, it clearly shows where the focus of most businesses is.
"I try to target interns who are no younger than sophomores in college," Brittain said. "I think it's important for them to have some classwork related to their field under their belt. It also gives them time to get involved in other organizations related to their chosen industry."
Should internships be paid?
Unpaid internships do exist, but they aren't common — and most should avoid unpaid internship programs. Many don't realize that any intern who performs tasks for the business is required to be paid. An unpaid intern may practice skills, but these skills cannot be practiced in the real-world setting.
"Students with paid internships are three times more likely to have job offers than students with unpaid internships," according to the results of an InternMatch survey.
This could be because unpaid internships mean the intern was not actually performing the tasks in a real-world environment. Paid internships allow the intern to actually work in the field and "get their hands dirty." That's what employers are looking for.
Those searching for an internship are less likely to take an unpaid internship, also. Businesses who offer paid internships are going to attract more qualified candidates.
"I wanted to get my foot in the door, but I needed an entry level job or internship that paid so I could quit my other job and be financially stable," said Christina Nava, another former MultiBriefs intern who became a full-time employee. "Most people just don't have the time to work two full-time jobs, and usually quitting a paid position to work an unpaid one isn't realistic."
How long should the internship last?
The length of the internship depends on many things. If it is through the university, there's a good chance it will correlate with the semester. However, outside of classroom-credit internships, most students believe two to three months is best. Anything less than two months isn't worth it; you can't experience enough in that amount of time to actually make a difference.
Consider when to start the internship, too. Even if you aren't working with a university to offer college credit, you should consider the potential interns' schedules.
There is no "right" time for an internship to begin, but summer internships might offer more value to both the intern and the business than any other time of the year. Summer interns can fill in for those out on PTO since summer is the prime vacation time. You are also likely to find more graduates searching for employment at this time.
What tips do MultiBriefs experts offer?
With years of experience working with interns, MultiBriefs management and former interns offer their tips and suggestions for a successful internship program.
Partner with universities.
Local universities are a prime location for finding potential interns.
"Work with your local universities to find the candidates who best fit your needs," Brittain said. "These university offices are constantly looking to place their students into the working world, so they'll do a lot of the leg work to provide you with great candidates."
Full-time potential should be advertised.
The No. 1 thing millennials want from an internship is the opportunity for long-term career advancement. Based on statistics from a National Association of Colleges and Employers' survey, 35.3 percent of employers' full-time, entry-level college hires came from internships programs.
Nava was influenced by the potential for full-time employment with MultiBriefs. When she was approached by a company recruiter, one of the benefits he touted was the potential for a full-time position after the internship.
"That definitely encouraged me to go for it," she said.
Look for candidates with extracurricular activities.
Employers are looking for people who take the extra step. They don't want someone who does just the bare minimum, but instead goes above and beyond. Extracurricular activities related to the industry impact decision-makers the most, but involvement in anything outside of the classroom proves initiative.
"I look for interns who have a documented history of involvement in various organizations at their college or university," Brittain said. "I believe this involvement outside the classroom prepares students to be in an office environment where interacting with your peers is vital."
Businesses without internship programs push talented graduates to seek employment elsewhere. Instead of excluding entry-level candidates, create an internship program to attract and train them for your business.
And with summer break just a few weeks away, now is the perfect time to kick off the program.
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