This column was originally published on Entrepreneur.com on 1/18/2017.
A lot of college students are on the lookout for work experience. Many of them will seek out internships and skill-building opportunities, and chances are, at least one potential intern is likely contact your business.
You might be interested in hiring interns but aren’t sure if they’re a better choice than some of your other options, like hiring temporary employees, part-time help, seasonal workers, an extra employee or a contractor. In my 30 years of being a business owner, I’ve had great experiences with hiring interns. I hire talent from local colleges and meet young people who are eager to put their school lessons to the test.
Your business might also benefit from an intern. Here are some examples of situations where hiring interns for your small business may make sense.
1. You like to test drive before you buy.
Internship programs are a way for companies to bring in new and promising talent, see how well they do, and possibly extend a job offer to them. Internships have an expiration date, so if your intern is doing great work and you can afford to keep them, hire them. But, if your intern slacks off or isn’t needed at your business, you’re not obligated to keep them. Try hiring an employee, taking their productivity for a test drive and then firing them. It’s a lot harder to do.
When you hire an intern, they could learn the basics of your business. Or, you can have them dive right in and get their hands dirty like I do. My personal internship guidelines for employers involves a lot of hands-on experience.
At my company, Patriot Software, I often extend full-time job offers to the interns who show great talent. I wouldn’t get to know their true potential if they ran around getting me coffee all day. Instead, my interns do work that full-time employees do. How else are they going to learn the ins and outs of my business?
Interns may be your business’s best pipeline to the future of your workforce. By learning the ropes early, they can contribute valuable work and continue to grow your business.
2. Your business is having trouble sourcing talent.
Many small businesses can’t flex the recruiting muscle that bigger companies have. But if you’re offering intern-geared perks like hands-on experience, you might be able to snag quite a bit of talent. Typically, interns are motivated to be involved in their new internship.
Interns don’t want to be just another “cog in the machine.” The last thing they want is to wind up in a dead-end job that zaps them of energy and turns them into zombies. Interns are full of potential and want to get their ideas heard. Don’t let any of your workers get sucked into being just a number. Get the talent you need by providing impactful work at your business. One way to start is through an internship program. If you feel stumped on where to recruit, go to college. No, I’m not saying enroll in classes. But you can find top talent at local schools. And they could end up being your right-hand man or woman someday. Participate in college fairs, talk with students about internship opportunities at your business, and collect resumes.
3. You are passionate about being a mentor.
Maybe you are so passionate about small business that you find yourself talking to strangers on the subway about how you tackled entrepreneurship. If you feel strongly about supporting fledgling entrepreneurs, hire an intern. Most likely, they want to know what it takes to be successful like you.
When you hire an intern, you should teach them the necessary job skills and go through the new employee onboarding process. Those interns may be looking to you for advice from time to time. If you hire an intern, you get the chance to teach someone and watch them grow.
My door is always open to any of my employees, including my interns. I try to give guidance so my interns can develop skills and understand how to use the information they picked up in school.
4. You need fresh ideas and vision.
When you hire an intern, they bring new ideas to the table. Many college students learn about things in school that could benefit your business. College interns are keeping up with modern trends, which can be a big plus. For example, your marketing intern is in an art class. They might have learned that certain colors impact moods more than others. Maybe they could give you ideas on colors to use when designing marketing materials.
5. You want an advocate for your business at college.
Hiring an intern creates a brand ambassador for your business. Your interns are learning valuable skills in the workforce. If they have an amazing experience, chances are they’ll talk to classmates about it. Interns have a huge pool of peers from college. If they see someone in their classes who is at the top of their game, they might refer them. Plus, it’s never bad to have interns telling their classmates that your business is a great place to work and full of great learning experiences.