There are a lot of myths about internships and interns floating around the internet. I know after watching The Devil Wears Prada, Clueless and most recently The Intern, I can see how easily these misconceptions are formed. Especially if you’ve never worked with interns or participated in an internship program, there is nothing to balance these images. But I’ve run quite a few internship programs for large and small businesses. When I work with small businesses and help them to see the benefits and the truth about internships, they are excited about a new opportunity to grow their businesses. So I’m here to share with you, truth about five of the most common myths that small business owners have about internships. Let’s get some clarity shall we?
Myth #1 Hiring Interns is a Good Way to Get Free Labor
This is a common myth that really need clarifying. Are there such things are unpaid internships? Yes. They do exist. But just because they are a real thing doesn’t mean they are the right option for our business. If you were planning on having a few interns work for free this summer, I’m about to throw a cold dose of reality on that dream so brace yourself. The government has a thing or two to say about making interns work for free. And since they have the power to do things like fine your business, it’s a smart move to know what they have to say and comply. Essentially, if your business benefits at all from the work performed by the intern, he or she needs to be paid at least minimum wage. There is a six point test set by the U.S. Department of Labor. You can read all about it here. But the bottom line is that in most small businesses, interns are not brought to just train them on the performance of a job and provide an educational experience. They are typically hired to do real work that benefits the businesses. So folks, plan to pay your interns and stay on the good side of the law.
Myth #2 Only Large Businesses Have Internship Programs
So not true. This is so not true I could tweet it all day. Many small businesses miss out on the major benefits they could receive by hiring interns. What small business couldn’t benefit from having short term, specialized talent? Or let’s just be real, someone to catch up on that huge stack of filing in the corner of your office? Almost everyone should be raising their hands right now. But most small businesses will never attempt to hire interns because they feel that only big companies have internship programs. That rule is written in the book of absolutely nowhere. You, yes you, can have an intern. Even if you are your only employee. Internships are actually perfectly suited for small business. Why? I’m so glad that you asked. In a large business, interns can be relegated to coffee runs, making copies and other meaningless grunt work. In a small business there is just no time for that nonsense. Small businesses are more all hands on deck, which means the intern gets to do actual work. Complete actual projects. And get mentored by you.It’s much easier for an intern to get hands on experience in a smaller company and that benefits everyone.
Myth #3 Interns Only Do Grunt Work And Can't Do Anything Significant
Interns know stuff. If given the opportunity they can do really incredible stuff. This and the fact that they are super eager to use all the information they have been cramming in their heads in a practical way makes interns just awesome talent sources. But they are often held back because their ability is underestimated. Well let me tell you something, that 19-year old kid, that twenty-something rock star is more than able to build our website, get your inventory system in order and run a social media campaign that will just knock your socks off. That is, if you let them. Let’s be clear, they will make mistakes. They will have to ask you questions. But doesn’t the rest of your staff? So cut them some slack, explain what you want, be available for support, then give them some room to work.
Myth #4 Interns Just Want Experience, They Don't Want to Work for Your Long Term
Well that depends on you and your business. Internships are a fabulous way to build a pipeline for new talent. You get to evaluate the work ethic and work quality of the intern to see if they would be a good fit for the future. But also remember that the intern is evaluating you as a leader, business culture and potential for growth in their area of study. If all of these evaluations on both sides are positive there is a good likelihood that the intern would be interested in working for your company after they graduate. They have already experienced what it would be like to work for you and have built relationships with your team, there would be a natural desire the want to join the team if there is opportunity. On your end, just keep creating opportunities that offer growth and development and building positive experiences with your interns, eventually they will seek long-term employment with you.
Myth #5 I Can't Afford to Pay an Intern
Uhm, yes you can. The key is to start planning early. If you know this summer that you want to hire two interns to work for three months during the summer next year, then you can set aside funds for this expense. You can also opt to have the intern work part-time instead of full-time to decrease the overall expense. And if you can’t pay top dollar don’t worry about it. Most big companies do not pay huge wages to interns. Decide on a fair hourly rate, that is at least minimum wage and plan accordingly. The advantage of being a small business is that you can easily add value to the opportunity without increasing the hourly rate. The added value comes from the intern actually getting hands on experience at a significant level instead of just observing. You can also add in things like letting the intern accompany you to networking events and setting aside one-on-one meetings for mentorship and development. There are so many ways to add value without paying more if you are creative and invest a little time.
Don’t let these common misconceptions stop you from reaping the benefits of an summer internship program. If you want to get a more insider information on how to start and run a summer internship program, check out the Internship16 workbook + challenge. The Internship16 workbook walks you through step-by-step of planning and implementing your internship program. It also comes complete with ready to use templates that you can edit in MS Word to fit your needs. Then the 16-Day Challenge makes sure that you put to use all those tools and actually get this done. Plus if you join the challenge you get to partner with other small business owners just like you, so you don’t have to go it alone. And the best part is that the workbook and challenge are free if you join the list by April 8th. So get the workbook and join the challenge today.
Get the Internship16 Workbook + Resources Bundle.
Internship programs are not just for big, huge giant businesses. Not at all my friend. Whatever your experience this workbook + Resource Bundle is all you need to start and run not just a good program, not an Ok program, but seriously the dopest internship program ever. Get your copy today.
TIME OFF REQUEST FORM
NEW HIRE CHECKLIST
INTERVIEW PLANNING WORKBOOK