By T.E. Cunningham

If you are not utilizing an intern program with one or more of your area colleges, you are missing a great opportunity. Internships can typically be taken for college credit with no cost to the business hosting the intern, or the intern can be paid minimum wage or slightly over if your budget will allow for it.

There are some genuine positives to having an internship program, and I list some of them below. That said, you have a responsibility as a manager to mentor and truly develop these students if you take a program like this on in your office. Using them to do filing or “grunt work” is in poor form, and not what the student or the university expects the program to deliver.

So what does an intern bring to the table?

  • A youthful vibrancy sparked with energy, enthusiasm, and curiosity. I’ve seen interns lift the office morale in smaller settings by injecting some fun and a sense of mentoring and stewardship on behalf of your employees
  • As mentioned above there is not much cost to hosting an intern, while if you select the right candidate, the manpower and project development they produce can be on par of that of an entry-level new employee
  • The “bigger win,” and my favorite part of internships is that they often become a springboard for your hiring of entry-level I’m very proud to look back on my intern hires over the past 20+ years and see many successful professionals out there; it’s gratifying
  • Remember too on the hiring front that both the intern and you have had a chance to “test-drive” a working relationship, and both have an excellent idea whether they will work well together
  • New ideas, especially in relating to the younger generation with products, services, and advertising messages. Some of them can turn out to be a fountain of new ideas and provide some lift to tired messaging internally
  • Tech-savvy! In the past five years, I’ve not had to teach a single intern one computer program, how to post to a social network or manage it and many have advanced graphics skills
  • They don’t say no! They will usually work extra or odd hours on occasion; they do not think that something is too hard to try or beneath them and they typically will attempt any project you give to them

How to manage college interns varies a bit from your regular staff, though you should observe all human resources policies and training. They typically need more instruction and then ongoing guidance as they work on a project – remember you are not their boss, you are their mentor.

Time management is another thing you need to watch with interns. Make sure you prioritize the tasks you give them and don’t make assumptions about their ability to know essential and timely from an “if you can get to it” project.