I’m going to brag just a little bit here & say that I’ve had some really incredible interns over the past few years. I would chock 20% of that up to the fact that I do really FUN & ridiculous work. But the other 80% has been a true labor of love. I am super passionate about training and developing creative talent. And I can honestly say that having interns has been an incredible gift both to myself and to my business. But creating a sustainable internship program isn’t easy. And if you want all of the benefits that interns can bring, you really need to put some work into creating intern success.
A few weeks ago I lead a small roundtable on the topic of “Finding Your Dream Intern” at The Love Union & these are the 5 tips I shared for starting your own internship program.
Start with what you need help with.
– Make a list of every little thing you could use help with. From that list, eliminate any of the tasks that you don’t feel qualified to teach someone else. That’s the basis of what your internship will be.
– Internships, by definition, need to be 100% educational. So if you need help doing something that you don’t know how to do – you need to hire someone to do it.
– Example: My internship is mainly production based, meaning that I need help building & making things. Each day I have an intern with me I spend 1-2 hours teaching them how to do something, and then the rest of the day is spent practicing it.
Create a manageable system.
– Think of having an intern as a long-term program & create systems to make it easier.
– If reading long cover letters isn’t your thing, don’t ask for one! Create an application system that’s quick, easy & won’t feel like too much of a chore.
– Example: I have a folder with my past listings, a spreadsheet for keeping track of applications/follow up & any applicable forms that need to be filled out. I also have a sub-folder for intern applications and a labeling system for who I’d like to interview.
Brainstorm your dream intern.
– Brainstorm your ideal intern qualities. Not just skills, but personality & attitude.
– Be hyper-specific about what you’re looking for & what matters most to you.
– Example: It’s very important to me that my interns are positive, open-minded & fun people.
Do a trial-run.
– After you’ve read your applications, meet your potential interns in person. If possible, have them come to your studio & spend a few hours with you doing a project.
– Example: My internship application has three steps – application, phone interview & then in-person trail. Intern applicants come to my studio in groups of 3 and do a project with me for 2 hours. It’s my way to see how they work with a team, how they handle project directions, what their level of craftiness is & if they’re fun to be around.
Make it official.
– Once you’ve chosen your interns, send them an “offer letter” or contract that specifically outlines the terms of the internship. Have them read it, sign it & return it to you.
– Some things to include: their start & end date, rate (if paid), how they’ll be paid, your biz’s social media policy, company dress code, confidentiality agreement & expectations for timeliness or canceling work days.
– You’re setting the tone for your internship from the start with this document. You can also refer to it if (for any reason) your interns aren’t doing what’s been accepted or agreed upon.
– Example: This is my favorite part of my intern contract: “I want your internship to be as fun, insightful & full of learning opportunities as possible. That’s why it’s your responsibility to (1) ask lots of questions, (2) try things you’ve never done before & (3) not be afraid to mess things up. I also expect you to bring your A-GAME every day that you’re with me. I need you to be present, pro-active & always keep the vibes positive. It’s also important that you keep it professional. To me, that means working diligently & efficiently, finding ways to help out (even it means cleaning) & always treating others kindly.
My final tip is honestly to just treat your interns with kindness and love. Create special projects that they’re excited about, ask them what they want to learn & give them the day off to go to the beach sometimes. If they’re happy, they’ll get so much out of their internship & bring so much awesomeness to your business.
Small Business Administration: How To Set Up An Internship Program For Your Small Business
Sage Wedding Pros: Your Internship Program Is Probably Illegal
Sage Wedding Pros: Creating An Internship Program, Part 1 & Part 2
Docracy: Sample Unpaid Internship Contract
NY Labor Intern Fact Sheet
Also, I’m on the hunt for my Spring/Summer Interns (May-August). If you’re interested, check out the info below & send me an email – firstname.lastname@example.org.