When you decide to hire interns, you have to weigh the pros and cons of adding young inexperienced workers to your professional environment. Finding new team members or freelancers for your business can be stressful but it doesn't need to be that way. Each intern arrives with a distinct set of skills, knowledge and ideas. There are many options and you can never be 100 percent sure about who will be the right pick.
Internship was created as a way to solve this dilemma. The history of internship dates as far back as the 11th century when apprentices were hired to learn various trades such as carpentry, masonry and agriculture. Internship as we know it today began in the 20th century when students were given opportunities to gain hands-on experience in their chosen professions. The idea to hire interns was developed as a way to bring practical experience into the curriculum.
Learning by doing is the foundation of internship. Interns have no experience beyond what they learned in textbooks. They enter with bright eyes and bushy tails but also with a sense of timidity. With this in mind, what should you do if you are considering an internship program for your business?
Pros and Cons to consider when you hire interns
Internships provide several benefits for both the intern and the employer. But there are also disadvantages. Here are a few that you should consider when you hire interns.
1. Enthusiasm - or not
Pro: Interns tend to have a high level of energy and enthusiasm. They are eager to learn and want to get the most out of the experience.
Con: Not all interns have this level of enthusiasm. Some can be sullen and eventually become a drain on regular staff. They aren’t there to learn but to get the credits so they can move on to their “real” jobs. They can also put your business in a negative light. Not exactly what you had in mind when you had the idea to hire interns.
Pro: Some interns are willing to work for free so that they can list the work experience on their resumes.
Con: Some interns won’t work without some form of stipend. If they realize they are doing a lot of work for no pay, they might not be an asset to your business.
Pro: Interns come with up-to-date knowledge. When you hire interns, you're hiring a digital natives, which could be a huge advantage to your business!
Con: While they have the knowledge, they don’t have the skills. Interns are inexperienced so you will spend a lot of time and money on training.
4. Experience - or lack of
Pro: Hiring an intern costs less than hiring someone with more experience and education.
Con: You get what you pay for. An intern’s lack of experience means that you have to be very careful about the tasks assigned. You may not necessarily get the quality you desire and may have to coach the intern so that the right quality of work is produced. Be willing to put in a lot of extra training time when you decide to hire interns.
Pro: You can gain a loyal employee. All the training and time you put into honing an intern’s skills can pay off in the long-term if you decide to hire him or her full time. This is one of the lesser thought of pros when you hire interns.
Con: You may not get a good Return on Investment (ROI) because the intern may never work with your company.
6. Availability Issues
Pro: Interns are in school and learning some new strategies that you can use in your business.
Con: An intern probably does not have a very flexible schedule. If the internship is during the semester, there are some hours or entire days when the intern will have classes.
7. Area of Expertise
Pro: Interns tend to do one area really well. They are specialists.
Con: Interns lose interest if you want them to do everything and more. An intern isn’t there to do everything from getting your coffee to picking up your dry cleaning.
8. Inside knowledge
Pro: Interns come from your local area. This can work to your advantage if you are a local based business since they would have first-hand knowledge about the unique characteristics of your area.
Con: Hiring interns can be awkward if your office is your home.
Create a good old fashioned pros and cons list to see if it makes sense for your business to hire interns.
An Intern or a Freelancer, Which is the Better Deal?
There’s a good chance you are considering hiring an intern because you want to avoid hiring full-time employees. Interns aren’t the only solution to this problem. Online freelancers can help you get the job done for a fraction of the cost. In fact, Virtual A Team has a team of highly experienced freelancers in various industries who can help you with a wide range of business processes. Here are 5 benefits of hiring an online freelancer versus an intern.
There are several freelancer platforms that feature some of the best and most experienced freelancers in their respective industries. These freelancers understand industry standards and know how to elevate your project so that you get the high-quality output you need. You don’t have to waste time training an inexperienced person.
Not sure where to find the best freelancers? Virtual A Team already has a highly experienced team of social media marketers, writers, web developers, executive administrators, graphic designers, project managers, virtual assistants and video producers who are eager to fulfill your needs.
Freelancers have more flexible schedules. Some even work on weekends. This flexibility can help them finish your projects within a reasonable timeframe. It also makes it possible for you to schedule progress report meetings and consultations that suit your schedule.
A freelancer’s rate will be less than a full-time employee’s rate. The freelancer may charge more than an intern, but that increased cost is worth every penny because you gain someone with experience. You also will spend little or no time training this person to fit in with your company’s routines and practices.
Online freelancers can work from anywhere in the world. Therefore, you don’t have to make accommodations for them at your company’s location like you would if you had hired an intern. You don’t have to worry about them eating out the food in the lunch area or sending your utility bills through the roof.
A Wider Pool
Your pick of interns will be limited to what the colleges and universities in your area can provide. Online freelancing tears down international borders. You can hire the best talent from anywhere in the world. Let’s say that you need a software programmer to create an app. India is known to have some of the best software programmers in the world. Virtual A Team can help you find an online freelancer with the right experience to help you create this app. There are no limits on where an online freelancer is located.
How do you know the best choice?
The answer to this question ultimately lies with you. Interns are better suited for people who:
- Are passionate about helping others grown and excel.
- Would like to onboard full-time employees in the long-term but want to train and select the best before doing this.
- Know what they need done and are willing to spend the time mentoring
Working with an intern should NOT be about cost. If you are simply going with an intern because you can afford one, you may be in for a much bigger headache.
Online freelancers are better for people who:
- Want to cut through the crap and get quality output from someone with more experience
- Are not sure about exactly what they need and would benefit from someone with experience who can provide guidance
- Have neither the time nor the patience for mentorship
How to Create a Stellar Internship Program
You may have decided that hiring interns is your best option. The next step is creating a stellar internship program that is mutually beneficial to your company and the intern. Here are the steps that can help you make this happen.
Step #1: Have a clearly defined goal for the program.
Think carefully about what you want to achieve. Here are some questions that can help you narrow down your objective:
- Is it your way of giving back to the community to support your corporate social responsibility goals?
- Are you looking to hire the best talent from the program full time? Does this mean that the internship will become more like a competition?
- Do you need some fresh ideas to take your business to the next level?
Your objective will shape what the internship program looks like.
Step #2: Ensure that you are following all the labor laws.
There are some clear guidelines that you should follow if you want to offer an unpaid internship. Review these guidelines and determine whether your should offer a paid or unpaid internship.
Step #3: Create a job description.
No one should be working for your business without a clear understanding of what is expected. Don’t leave it to a verbal agreement; a clear job description should be prepared in black and white. Both you (or your human resource representative) and the intern should sign it so there is evidence of a mutual agreement.
Step #4: Assign each intern to a mentor.
Remember that internship is primarily about creating a hands-on experience that puts theory into practice. Leaving your interns to fend for themselves makes it harder to create this learning experience. It can even cause them to become frustrated. Ensure that each intern has a mentor within your company who can be their go-to for advice. A mentor should ideally not be assigned to more than 3 interns.
Step #5: Give the interns work to do.
This point may be obvious from steps 3 and 4. However, it is so important that we had to discuss it separately. Interns aren’t there to hang around idly and chit-chat at the water cooler. They are eager to learn and want to apply their knowledge. Create opportunities for them to do this. Of course, you aren’t going to give the intern major projects to work on. However, you can:
- Invite the intern to planning sessions
- Include your top interns in client meetings
- Assign interns to tasks that they can complete based on their present skills
- Help the intern collaborate with your team and find the best place to use his or her skills
Step #6: Show appreciation.
Reward sweetens labor. In fact, workers are more motivated when they feel appreciated. Any intern should leave your program feeling empowered and ready to face the challenges of working in the real world. Some ways to show appreciation include:
- Congratulating (in an encouraging way) the intern when something is done right.
- Having an awards ceremony at the end of the program.
- Providing cash incentives to interns who meet certain targets.
Putting It All Together
Companies can benefit from hiring interns or hiring online freelancers. Your choice depends on the amount of time both you and your staff can commit to helping interns grow and learn from the experience.
Only consider hiring interns if you:
- Can create a stellar internship program.
- Believe that your business can benefit from local talent.
- Have the time and resources to support the intern’s learning curve.
- Are committed to community development.
Online freelancers provide an easier way to get the work done faster and at the right quality, especially if it’s a freelancer hired by Virtual A Team.
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