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Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Need Help? Hire an Intern (You'll thank me later...)

The economy has forced us all to tighten our belts, possibly reduce our staff, and for some folks, find a new career altogether. Some of the jobs that were eliminated aren't coming back - requiring refocus.

What this means for all of us is that we need to work more efficiently with reduced resources. I always joke that if you feel that you are overwhelmed at work, then you are working at capacity and that's a good thing. :)

I'm noticing a lot of connections lately who are hesitant to post a job opening because they are leery of being overwhelmed by responses. Or, they are seeking to hire a contract position and if business continues to grow, they may expand it to full-time. All good signals that things are starting to rebound.

From the job seeker perspective, they may be seeking new positions in new industries, and have little to no experience in these areas. And we all know how hard it is to find a job when you have no experience in that area.

This brings me to the topic of today's blog: interns. I'm a big fan. And I'm referring to paid internships - not free labor. That's just not right, in my opinion.

When you find the right intern, you'll find someone who is eager to learn, hungry for work, interested in the job / your company, and a dedicated employee. You get the benefit of having a second pair of hands, at a low cost, without a full-time commitment. Plus you are helping someone to get a foot in the door of a new industry, and possibly in a new position. They get the benefit of gaining valuable on-the-job experience.

I've recruited and hired several interns throughout my career and have always had a positive experience.

Keep in mind though that interns aren't always college students. Sometimes they are experienced individuals who are changing industries. The advantage here is that experienced workers (or, older workers) are more reliable, confident in their abilities, and sometimes more polished. I give everyone equal consideration when it comes to applying for an internship. I'm more concerned that they are seeking an internship for the right reasons -- a foot in the door in the industry -- than how many years they have been in the workforce. If I'm reading in between the lines that the only reason they want the internship is for the money, or to get out of the house, etc., then they aren't a serious candidate. I'm seeking interest, passion, and enthusiasm. Because if you have those traits, you'll be a great intern.

Many colleges and universities offer Career Services to their students and alumni, and often will help you develop and post paid internships. My employer, Walsh College, helped me with my internship posting and I would gladly refer them.

What do you think? Have you hired interns before? What value do they offer you -- both personally and professionally?

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