This article will appear in the next issue of Greenlights for Nonprofit Success e-newsletter, Power Steering.
Are you considering hiring an intern to help with marketing projects? When you have a lean staff, interns can help fill the void, bringing creativity and a fresh perspective to your organization. They can also be a huge time investment and distraction, depending upon how you’ve structured their work.
Here are a few best practices pulled together from our experience at TREW Marketing:
1. Recruit and hire as you would a full-time employee. Conduct a formal interview, ask probing questions, and as you make your hiring decision, think to yourself, “would I hire this person as a full-time employee someday?”
2. Set clear expectations of the internship. This includes compensation, duration, work hours, work location, and attire. Given that this may be the intern’s first professional job, be as specific as possible.
3. Pay your interns. Ok, I’ll admit that I’ve heard of several free intern situations that worked out just fine. In the past I’ve paid interns, which I believe in turn helped set clear expectations of professionalism expected. We have given raises for returning interns, as they were more valuable to us and it was a nice reward for their past good work and loyalty.
4. Define a project(s) for the intern that are hands-on with a well-defined scope where they can work autonomously (see #6 for more ideas on ideal projects).
5. Make sure the project has a defined timeline with a clear start and end date.
6. Pick the right project. Try to find projects that are important to the organization but you may just not be able to get to them; also try to find projects that will not be detrimental to the organization if they blow up – examples include competitive analysis, technology recommendations (social media for instance), new collateral or content development, media or event research, etc.
7. Assign a mentor (may be you). Set up weekly meetings where you provide the structure, but they run. The intern should come with an agenda, and prepared updates of progress, obstacles they’re facing, and support they need as well as what they’ve learned and are enjoying/not enjoying.
8. Have interns present their work. Have interns present the findings of their project at the end of their internship – this is really important because they not only learn much by going through the process of developing the presentation and presenting in a professional setting, but their work is then nicely packaged for you.
9. Conduct a formal performance review. Depending upon the duration of the internship, perhaps do this twice — in the middle of the internship and at the conclusion. You can even provide performance review criteria to the intern at the beginning of the internship in order to be very clear about your expectations.
10. Have some fun! Be sure to take your intern out to lunch or happy hour with the staff and help them feel like they are part of the group. Remember how intimidating it can be to start a new job with new people, especially at the very beginning of your career.