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Jennifer Taylor of Taylor'd Events

An Event Pro’s Guide to Launching an Internship Program

Well-structured internships in the special event industry can pay off for both the company and the intern, says Jennifer Taylor.

There’s no shame in needing help—in fact, it’s typically a sign of growth when you need to bring in some extra hands to keep the wheels turning. But, if you reach a point where you’re ready to hire someone new, it’s important to determine just how much of a commitment you want to make. You might not be in a place to take on a full-time employee or even a part-time team member--perhaps you don’t even have enough work to justify a new employee on the payroll.

Here, internships are a great avenue for getting seasonal help or for temporary projects that need extra support. In addition to being cost-effective, internships also give you the valuable experience of mentoring an industry newbie and contributing to the future of the industry as a whole.

Of course, there are limitations with interns—in most cases, they don’t come with a lot of experience or skills that you might need, but that’s not to say that you can’t teach them. Interns might also have a limited schedule as they could be in school or balancing your work with another job. You’ll need to be flexible in your arrangements, but you’ll see the benefits far outweigh the restrictions. Here’s what you need to know about creating an internship program:

1. Define the position
You need to first start out by determining the responsibilities you need filled by interns. Before beginning your search, write up a detailed job description that outlines expectations for the position, as well as job parameters. Note expected hours per week (and a schedule, if applicable), the term of the internship, and additional details that can help potential candidates decide whether the position is a fit for their lifestyle. For example, if you need an intern to work off-site at events, you’ll need to cover transportation expectations and whether you’ll provide a company car, a travel stipend, or stick with carpooling.

2. Research local guidelines
The legal parameters of internships are slightly different from those of traditional employment. Internships can be unpaid but typically require some type of compensation (i.e., academic credit, living stipends, etc.). Do your research on state and local labor laws to ensure that you’re following the regulations and not putting yourself and potential interns at risk. If necessary, consult with your legal advisor to make sure you’ve checked all of the required boxes.

3. Map out your onboarding process
When your interns show up on their first day, you’ll want to jump right into training to make the most of their time with you. Internships are usually temporary, so every minute matters. Most interns will be inexperienced and looking to you for more guidance than a typical employee does, so be prepared to hold their hand for the first several weeks. Additionally, it helps to have an internship handbook that outlines your brand story and the procedures they’re expected to learn. Paired with some hands-on training, this will help them get up to speed and start fulfilling job responsibilities on their own.

4. Evaluate strengths and weaknesses
As a mentor to your interns, you need to support their career goals and help them to become better industry professionals. Commend their strengths and provide extra resources for them to work on their weaknesses. Ask them questions to gauge how they feel about their responsibilities, and look for ways to help them grow. This is an opportunity to teach and guide the event professionals of the future, so consider the resources and advice you wish you had gotten when you were first getting started out in your career.

5. Consider future career growth
No two interns are alike. For some, it will be evident that their skills are better used in another capacity—your company may be a stepping stone for them to do great things elsewhere. Thus, you should encourage them to continue exploring their passions and offer yourself as a reference wherever they go. On the flip side, some interns may prove to be a natural fit within your business, and you might consider keeping the door open for part-time or full-time employment when possible.

Seasonal internships can provide a lot of value to everyone involved—you get the help that you need and your interns get a learning opportunity that can serve as a launch pad for their career. Your internship program will be as successful as the effort you put into it, so if you’re ready to take the plunge, be diligent about creating a process that is mutually beneficial for all parties involved.

Jennifer Taylor is the principal of Jen Taylor Consulting, a consulting firm that works with creative businesses of all sizes to implement streamlined workflows and organized systems to find more time and space for business growth and personal development. She is also the owner and founder of Taylor’d Event Group, an event planning company that serves local and destination clients in Washington State and Maui, Hawaii.

TAGS: Weddings
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