A lot of my advisory board and other mentors advised me not to get interns. They thought they were such a time suck. You have to train them, they don't get anything done, they could care less about your company. After all, aren't internships just a vehicle to an awesome resume upon graduation?
No. They're so much more than "get me some coffee", "highlight this stuff", "count these stickers". Students are bright. They want to learn. They want to make an impact.
While I may not be able to offer our interns full-time positions, I can offer a great experience with a growing start-up. Like any true entrepreneur, I didn't spend much time planning this out. Instead, I have chosen to operate on 5 principles that shape our internship program at Gredio:
I have an office, but I'm barely there. So, why make my interns succumb to office hours? If I have the flexibility to roll out of bed and work from home, so should my interns. Need help? Hit me up on Google chat. Can't work during normal business hours? As I said in my internship posting, "if you work well from 2am - 6am and code best on a diet of cream cheese and Cheetos, we don’t care when you work - just get shit done." It's that simple. If I want to work remotely, you can, too. No need for a desk.
"I'm giving you full-reign over our social media efforts. Take it and run with it. It's all yours." I just said this to my marketing intern, Jessie. I told her to come up with a social media strategy, pitch it to me, and see if she can start interacting with potential users of our application. I like to give interns projects they can call their own. Projects they tackled from start to finish. Sure, I'll give them my input, but I want them to own it. To know it's theirs. When they have ownership, they're motivated to get the project done.
I'll tell you I don't like it if you tell me you don't like it. Honesty can be brutal (it was actually one of the first posts I wrote on this blog). But, if you don't think something is right, let me know. If you love it, let me know that, too. Honesty gets the bullshit and drama out of the way and propels companies forward instead of weighing them down.
If you do everything by yourself, the project may not be the best it can be. That's why I involve my interns in as many real-world challenges as possible. I not only do it to see how they solve problems, but I do it so that I have someone to bounce ideas off of. Plus, two heads are always better than one. My marketing intern and I worked together for 30 minutes to write a stellar auto-responder on Google Docs. Would either of us come up with that on our own? Probably not. Teamwork is awesome.
An interns number one priority is to learn skills they probably aren't going to be exposed to in the classroom. After all, I've barely used what I learned in my marketing classes in the real world. That means the majority of what I learned was in my couple years experience as a marketing manager, owning businesses, internships, and reading books and blogs. I want to give my interns the same opportunity. I ordered a copywriting book for my marketing intern on day one. I constantly send her blog posts and other reading I think she'd enjoy. An internship is about learning and experience. And that's what I intend to give my team.
Internships are an opportunity to work with smart, talented young students. They're an opportunity to craft an incredible experience. They don't have to be boring and dull or cost a lot of money. If you follow these five principles, you'll attract interns who simply get stuff done. And that's a win-win, isn't it?