There are definitely a lot of reasons to hire an intern, including your deep-seeded desire to give something back as a mentor. We’ve all been taken under someone’s wing and taught the ropes during our career at some point.
The question is, with so many college students either graduating or taking the summer away from their studies, is it the right time for you to take on an intern?
Reasons to do so range from the sense of obligation described above; to a thrifty desire to take free labor anyway you can get it; to the simple fact that you might very well need more staff in the summer months – or whatever time of year you find yourself reading this.
Here are 4 legitimate reasons why an intern isn’t right for your business right now:
1. Lack of time
Regardless if it’s a school-sanctioned mentorship, or they’re a graduate eager to learn the ropes, an internship is a training program first and foremost. They aren’t just there to bring you and your staff coffee and donuts, and make lunch runs for everyone. They’re there to learn significant skills they can use to catapult their career – skills that will add value to your industry and the workforce as a whole.
A true internship involves a structured daily plan, with the end result being that the trainee leaves – or moves to a paid position in the company at the end of said internship. One of the biggest mistakes a business can make is failing to fully understand the commitment needed from its staff in order to make an internship a success.
This process takes time and patience. You and your staff members need to be able to take time away from your duties to teach interns the ropes. If the season or current company circumstances don’t allow this, you’re doing nothing but holding them and you, back.
2. You have no desire to hire them at the end
One of the biggest benefits to hiring an intern is the ability to vet both their skills and learning ability before signing them on to the payroll.
So what if they’re heading back to school for another year or three? That doesn’t mean they won’t come see you at the end of their schooling for a job, does it?
Then there’s the possibility that you’re just exploiting their desire to learn, or need to get internship hours to get their degree, to help lighten the load and/or have someone to boss around without the worry of legal repercussions. An internship should be a career pipeline into your company – otherwise you’re wasting your time and money training them for a competitor.
3. They’re a great alternative to hiring someone
In other words, you don’t have the budget or desire to hire someone onto the payroll. And what greater way to get some cheap labor than to hire an intern? The problem is, you’re leading them on, stifling their development, and stomping on a moral virtue or two in the process.
If it’s a school internship, the institution isn’t likely to stand for their students being taken on under misleading circumstances. Kind of like the episode of Seinfeld when Kramer hires a college student to work at Kramerica Industries; with the main goal being to have an assistant to schedule lunch dates with his friends at the coffee shop, and take his personal phone messages (if you haven’t seen it, the school found out and axed the internship).
As an aside, most reputable institutions have a rule stating their interns cannot spend anymore than ¼ of their time doing clerical duties – and strictly monitor this protocol to ensure those students are getting the best experience possible.
4. You and your managers have no desire to mentor anyone
As I’ve been alluding to throughout, if this is one of your motivations, you’re not really interested in fulfilling your duties to the intern. They’re there to learn and if you’re not there to teach, you’re doing them a disservice. Their work quality will quickly fizzle out and/or they’ll leave for greener pastures.
Interns need someone who has an expert level skill-set they want to pass on to those eager to learn them. They also need someone with patience and above-average communication skills to make the hard task of learning a new skill less stressful than perhaps you or your staff had to go through during your come-uppance.
You don’t want to morph into a fashion-intern-cliche and become that crazy-genius-boss who puts people through hell just to get a glimpse at what you know. It’s hard enough for them. If you don’t have everything it takes to mentor someone, politely decline and let them keep looking for someone who does.
Hopefully, you now have a better understanding of what it really takes to become a mentor, and a better idea of whether your company’s a suitable place for an intern to spend their time.