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Jennifer Taylor of Taylord Events

7 Steps to Develop a Strong Internship Program

Jennifer TaylorThere comes a time for all of us that we need to face the facts--sometimes, we just need help. While you may not be quite ready to take on an official employee, whether mentally or financially, it could be prime time to take on an intern or two.

The benefits of hiring interns greatly outweigh the efforts--not only will you get an alternate perspective on the team, but you’ll also be able to delegate your everyday to-dos to them, ultimately saving you time.

However, as with many things, it’s key to develop an effective structure before diving in head-first. This includes the procedures, policies, and responsibilities that are set into place for interns, as well as processes for you to oversee a team of interns. Otherwise, you’ll come across as disorganized if you hire a couple of interns and aren’t able to efficiently manage them.

After deciding that an internship program is just what your business needs, the very first step is to make sure you understand the U.S. Department of Labor’s guidelines for an internship program. With this in mind, craft a detailed job description based on the tasks that you’re willing to delegate. It could be social media management or client data organization--whatever it is, be sure to explicitly state the responsibilities upfront. Often, prospective interns are dazzled by the idea of working in the events industry without realizing that it can be quite a bit of work, so it’s key to set expectations from the get-go.

1. Determine the top desired qualities before reaching out anywhere--this will help in qualifying the best candidates of the applicant pool. For us, we especially value self-motivation, a willingness to fail, and an outgoing personality. These standards allow us to handpick the very best candidate to fit our company culture and our brand.

2. Keep in mind that every business will have different parameters for their internship programs. While we typically only have internships in the summers, some companies may find it more effective to open their applications at different times of year, depending on busy seasons. Similarly, the average number of interns to hire depends on the workload and how booked your schedule is. While interns can be invaluable additions to the team, be cautious of taking on too many as you may find yourself bogged down with overseeing them.

3. When you are ready to start the search for the ideal intern(s), local universities are a great place to start. Students are often looking for internships, which can be for academic credit instead of a paid position. Word-of-mouth is another great source--strong referrals by trusted peers can speak volumes of a candidate. We receive a great number of inquiries each year, so we make an effort to host a quarterly meet-and-greet for any interested candidates to attend. Essentially, it’s an open forum for them to ask any questions they have and we can answer them all at once. Not only does this save us time, but it also shows that we’re passionate for our internship program!

4. When interviewing candidates, lay out all expectations and boundaries before they have a chance to cause problems. Explain job responsibilities, establish a schedule (i.e., no communications on Saturdays), and answer any questions that the applicant has. Evaluate each and every candidate carefully and determine which one (or more, if you’re looking to hire a team) best measures up to your company’s values.

5. During the onboarding process, make an effort to really get to know who they are, both as a person and as a professional. Identify their strengths in order to leverage them and understand their weaknesses so you know what needs work. While you may not need to go through the whole onboarding process, as they’ll be assistants with specific, replicable tasks, it’s still necessary to get to know any member you’re bringing onto your team--even if it’s temporary.

6. Throughout the program, be sure to check in regularly and provide interns with feedback regarding their work. They’ll need to feel accountable for their work; otherwise, you may start to notice a decline in performance. Whether you’re providing credit or pay, it’s essential for interns to understand their role in your company, as well as how they can meet (and exceed!) the set standards.

7. As the internship comes to an end, a great way to wrap up the experience is with an exit interview. Ask the interns what they’ve learned, how they would’ve changed the internship for the better, and what their overall impression has been. This is important for evaluation purposes, providing you with a better idea of what you need to improve your internship program.

In addition, we’ve found that those who make it through the whole program generally stay in touch afterwards, which is another benefit of instituting an internship program. You never know where your network can take you!

Jennifer Taylor is the owner of Taylor’d Events Group, a planning firm that specializes in celebrations of all kinds in the Pacific Northwest and Maui.


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