I frequently speak to small business owners who feel overworked but can’t afford to hire additional full-time employees to share the burden. One option many have overlooked is the possibility of hiring a student intern.

Internships or placements are a common way for students to gain solid work experience, while helping them form ideas about what their future career will be. In return, the company gets an enthusiastic, dedicated addition to the workforce which can be of real value to the business. You may get some ideas from Microsoft UK’s placement scheme linked here.

The Office Live team in the UK has directly benefitted from some impressive work that placement students have completed whilst at Microsoft. They have provided invaluable help organising events, developing marketing materials, planning logistics, producing competitive reviews and so on. It can also be beneficial to have a fresh pair of eyes look over a business problem, whilst providing a reality check of what’s going on in the real world.

There are several issues business owners need to consider carefully before hiring an intern. Foremost, you need to think honestly about whether you have enough of the right type of work for the intern to do over the entire placement period. Cliché’s around the intern just making the coffee are far from true with good companies balancing work which is challenging yet achievable. Be sure that you have enough work to keep them busy by creating an activity plan which have set tasks throughout the placement and clearly defined end goals.

Secondly, business owners need to make sure that there are sufficient resources for the intern to be “looked after” during their placement. Everyone has heard a horror story whereby an intern has felt neglected because nobody’s shown them the ropes. To ensure this doesn’t happen, make sure you assign someone in the business who can act as a mentor, teaching them what they need to know as well as answer any queries they may have.

Finally, don’t be expect your interns to work for free. Most interns are students who need cash to fund their degree. Be sure to set a realistic wage for the placement and state this clearly in the recruitment process.

Anyone thinking about hiring an intern this summer should take a look at the Government’s new Graduate Talent Pool initiative, which contains lots of useful advice and guidance on how small businesses should offer placements.

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