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Creating the Opportunity for an Internship

Creating the Opportunity for an Internship

Kelly McCausey | Excelle

I get at least one email a week asking if I would consider becoming a mentor. As a full time internet marketing mom, I’m doing what thousands of others wish to do so the requests aren’t surprising — it’s just not easy to know how to respond. I don’t like saying no to a genuine request, but mentoring is time consuming.

I already do paid coaching and have to limit the number of clients I take in order to stay in balance with the rest of my business and personal life. I also see mentoring as a big responsibility. It isn’t a relationship that I’m going to enter into lightly.

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The year before last I discovered a way to say yes to a few of these requests and that is by taking on an occasional intern.

Business internships are as old as business itself. Many crafts are learned best via apprenticeship versus a more traditional learning environment. In an internship, you have an opportunity to learn by doing. Being privy to the how and why of things rather than simply being told what to do results in a lower learning curve and more valuable experience.

I started out by offering a podcasting internship. I used the opportunity to mentor my intern in everything to do with producing and promoting a podcast. The long term goal was to duplicate myself and potentially have someone to delegate future work to. I created a learning track and spent a lot of one on one time with the intern.

The situation turned out very well. My intern is in business for herself today offering specialized podcast and new media services to others. I no longer take production clients, making referrals to her instead.

Benefits in the internship relationship go both ways. The intern gets my one on one attention as well as access to valuable learning resources. In the process of learning, my intern works with me on my own projects. The extra set of hands is much appreciated.

There are a few risks involved that should be evaluated. If you’re letting an intern work on your own business, you’ll have to give them access to private information — so trust is a big issue. I have my interns sign a nondisclosure agreement and set up easily revocable access whenever possible.

Approach your internship opportunity just like a paid job opening. Advertise the position, describe the benefits and responsibilities and accept resumes. Don’t be shy about stating your expectations and management style. I recommend a two part interview process. The goal is to get several impressions of your potential intern before making a decision.

Your internship opportunity should have a set length of time. I personally like to work in ten week segments with a specific skill set in focus. I have asked for a commitment of ten to twenty hours a week depending on the complexity of our end goals. Make a list of learning objectives and develop a plan for evaluation. Write up a contract that clearly outlines responsibilities on both sides. There has to be a way in the end for you and your intern to know if the internship has been successful.

If at any time an intern shows a lack of commitment, I hold them accountable. And if their level of involvement doesn’t improve, I will end the internship. I haven’t had to actually let an intern go but I have had to discuss commitment issues. I think it would be a disservice to the intern for me to be anything less than professional in our relationship and that means holding them up to their contract.

Are you ready to take on an intern? Being a mentor to someone is serious business. It is not just an opportunity to get some free work done for you. If you have an excellent grasp on your trade, you could be ready to offer another an internship opportunity. When you find that people come to you often with questions or requests for advice, you are probably in the perfect position to help someone out.

Related Reads:
Don’t Be Afraid to Be an Expert
Why Professional Conferences Are a Must
It’s Not a Glass Ceiling, It’s a Sticky Floor

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