Get the Most Out of Interns at Your Small Business

As Jen pointed out last week, sometimes being a boss is tough. You have to make hard decisions all the while managing your company and your employees. And, if you throw in the addition of interns, you may have another layer of complications to manage. However, having interns can be great for your small business. Not only are interns are cost-effective for your business, but they also make great brand ambassadors, who can spread the word about your business on school campuses and on the streets. Read below to learn how you can make the most out of your interns.

Map out duties

Before your intern even walks in the door on his first day, you should already know exactly what you want his duties to entail. Put that into writing, and make sure to give him a copy. It’s a great idea to give your intern ongoing duties, such as checking the mail (always the iconic intern duty), but also finite projects with deadlines. Specific tasks help the intern feel a part of your company, and it will give you greater insight to what he is capable of, which is often more than just clerical work.

Assess natural abilities

Once you’ve had a better chance to see what your intern is capable of, feel free to let him branch out to more complicated tasks. Our ChooseWhat interns help out with our larger projects, such as researching vendors, writing reviews and helping out with marketing and paid search. Try to aim your intern’s duties to his field of study and what he excels in. For example, if you have a business major, let him help you with billing or invoicing, or if you have a marketing intern, gear the duties towards social networking initiatives.

Don’t scrimp on training

Your intern will need to be adequately trained in order to complete his assignments with little supervision from you or another employee. When you first hire an intern, spend the time to train him properly. The more you teach your interns, the more you’re going to get out of them, and the more they’re going to get out of their internship.

Appoint a manager

You need an employee to supervise your intern—that could be you, or it could be the person responsible for the projects the intern is assigned to help with. That manager needs to regularly check in with the intern to make sure he is comfortable with his assignments and doesn’t have any questions. This would also be the person who could help write a recommendation at the end of your intern’s internship.

Explain the rules

On your intern’s first day, you should make a point of addressing your company’s code of conduct. Explain everything they’ll need to know—or what’s expected of them. That means explaining the dress code, logging hours, Internet access, music playing, etc. If they are going to have contact with clients, you will definitely want to make sure they know what the office’s protocols are.

Consider your size

Look at your company’s size; if it’s fairly small, it might be best to only hire one intern at a time. You want to make sure they have enough projects to be productive and that your employees have enough time to manage them. If you have too many all at once, it could become an issue. Try to stagger their work days and times as well.

Address concerns

If you recognize a problem with your intern, address it immediately. Let him know what the issue is and how to correct it. For most of your interns, this could be their first job and they might not know what the correct etiquette is. Allow them to ask you questions and learn processes correctly, but also feel free to step in when they’re doing something wrong. Your job is to make sure they succeed and garner a great learning experience, not watch them flounder or slap their wrists.

Reward them

If your intern did a great job, let him know it.  At the end of his internship, write him a great letter of recommendation, or even better, give pointers on how he can craft the perfect resume that outlines the duties he completed while at your company. And, if you have a spot available, and he was an excellent intern, consider hiring him onto your staff. Interns make great employees because they are already loyal to your company, and they know the ins and outs of your business without having to be trained upon hire.

While interns are a great tool for small businesses, your company can utilize other great, low-cost resources, such as virtual phone systems and online fax to keep your business running smoothly.

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