May 20, 2012, 7:24 AM — Consider this scenario: Summer is approaching and your work keeps piling up. You consider hiring an intern to lessen your load, but debate it because training him can feel like a second job.
Sound familiar? LinkedIn's Connection Director Nicole Williams says she's been guilty of this scenario before:
"I know there are students out there looking for an opportunity to build their skills," she says. "But instead of just putting out the call, I end up oscillating somewhere between: I could use the support, but sometimes it feels like it's more work to train them than do it myself. And on top of it all, I'm not sure I'm going to have a full-time job for them at the end of the internship."
Williams, who has forged successful partnerships with interns in the past, says that with the right guidance, hiring interns can be beneficial for both parties. Here are five tips for doing so.
1. Get to know your intern. Williams says that because this could be your intern's first "real" job experience, they'll probably feel a bit shy, out of place and intimidated. To break the ice, take some time to get to know your intern: their school, interests, career aspirations, etc.
"Creating rapport with them will open up the lines of communication and make them feel more at ease, which in turn will make them more skillful workers," she says.
Williams suggests starting by learning about them through their LinkedIn profile, so you have background information. Once they start, meet with them one-on-one for lunch, for example, and follow-up with them weekly or monthly with status reports that highlight, among other things, the skills they've acquired so far in the internship.
2. Have "the talk." If your intern is looking for a job-but you don't have one to offer-let him know that upfront. "If you don't have a job for them don't feel guilty about it," she says, "but make sure they are walking away with tangible skills and real-world work experience that will land them a full-time gig."
3. Make grunt-work meaningful. Menial tasks are a part of any internship, but the key to keeping your intern focused on the big-picture is to ensure they understand the necessity of the grunt work in a larger context.
"The younger population is more apt to do the grunt happily if they see how it's tied to the greater job and goal," Williams says. "Tell them that it may feel like grunt work, but this is how it's contributing to the team and to the goal at hand. That helps to take away the bad connotation."