I have long felt that one of the responsibilities of a small-business owner is mentoring young people at the start of their career. The opportunities which prepared me to form and run my business, RosettaBooks, started with the mentors who helped me—so whenever I can, I like to give back in the same way.
These five tips can help you decide how to find your interns and encourage them to do the best job possible, both for the growth of your business and their own careers.
1. Source your interns from excellent educational programs.
We have hired interns with a focus and skill set for production, distribution, marketing and finance, four of our primary activities. For other businesses and locations, there will be a wide range of educational programs with matching skill set options. Schools in your area are likely to encourage intern programs and will have easy ways to post for positions. Online postings will generally bring a wide range of applicants almost immediately.
2. Pay your interns fairly.
In publishing, many internships are unpaid, but we pay our interns $12.50 per hour for 30 hours per week. If you don’t pay your own interns a fair wage, there are potential legal challenges. (For example, major companies in attractive industries in New York City have been subject to class-action law suits on behalf of interns who were required to work without pay.)
If the intern were your daughter or son, would you want them to have to work for free in order to break in to their area of interest? I doubt it. An intern does and should place a value on their time, training and work. When fairly compensated, the intern will likely feel more job satisfaction and the employer may get a better job performance.
3. Offer substantive work.
We interview our candidates carefully and, after they’re hired, we give them assignments which help our business and advance their skill sets and knowledge. We can all get our own coffee.
From a workflow point of view, our interns are working side by side and interchangeably with our full-time staff. In our publishing company, we have distribution, production and marketing interns which are three fundamental areas of publishers. The intern reports to the director in their area. Their work is substantive and benefits the company, and the training benefits the intern. Most of our interns have gone on to land attractive full-time jobs in the New York publishing community, which is an incredibly competitive environment to get in the door.
4. Recognize that today's intern may be tomorrow's employee.
Several of our key team members started as interns. The benefits of the process include: the intern can figure out if this is a career and team that attracts them; we can figure out if the intern fits our needs along with the benefit of a trial period; and we avoid the costs and uncertainty of a recruitment process when we have a staff opening.
5. Your interns are your community ambassadors—for better or worse.
The better the intern experience, the louder the word on the street that your business is a great place to work—and the stronger the next round intern applicants. With a strong intern program, you are doing well by doing good.
Read more about how RosettaBooks is rewriting the rules of digital media and the publishing industry.