December 18, 2012

Should You Hire an Intern?: Do You Have Time to Teach Them

Internships are an essential tool for networking, gaining real world experience, and learning about what you want (or don't want) to do. Today, it seems though that internships are the only career opportunity that isn't about as rare as college student without a Facebook. That's great news for those who are looking for the perfect internship, but it does make you wonder how many of these programs are actually worth it. Just because you have a company, does it mean you should have an intern? Maybe not, but how can you determine whether creating an internship program is a great idea or a waste of time?

So here's part one of a new series designed to help employers evaluate their business and their goals to determine whether or not they should get an intern (or two...or ten...) starting with an important but often overlooked issue: do you have time to teach them?

Do you have time to teach them?
It may seem like a great idea to get some interns to help lighten your work load or offset the fact that your budget is hurting too much to afford an employee, but it's not really (and it may even be illegal, but more on that later).

Sure, there are plenty of benefits to having interns, but it can't always be about you. Interns are there to learn and you should be willing, able, and patient enough to teach them. It might mean explaining one task at a time or even hosting special orientation programs and workshops, but either way it will take time and you have to be okay with the fact that an intern won't walk in the door knowing how to do everything (or maybe even anything). There's also a fairly good chance they will make mistakes, or jam the printer and leave it simply because they didn't realize, or forget to re-order office supplies, or accidentally hang up on a really important client who is kind of unhappy with you to begin with, or cause some other issue that you're going to need to fix. That's part of the process though and if you aren't willing to be at least a little bit patient, understanding, and willing to teach and communicate, then interns might not be for you.