Friday, July 16, 2010

Interns: What they are, and where you can get them

If you've been by our Bethlehem Chamber office lately, then you've probably noticed that we have, at any given time, about half a dozen college kids running around and working.  They are our interns, and they have been incredibly helpful to the various staff members that supervise them.  Indeed, interns can be a great benefit to any business.  We've had a lot of questions lately about what our interns do and where we get them, so I thought these were questions worth answering here.

What Interns Are:  Interns, most of the time, are college kids who are working in an office for credit, experience and/or resume building.  They are not paid.  They work on specific projects that are assigned to them by supervisors.  Typically, they work 10-15 hours a week, but each intern will probably have different requirements.

What Interns Aren't:  Copy-machine jockeys.  You cannot  have an intern do nothing but photo-copying, data entry and coffee making.  An intern will work in your office to gain valuable experience.  As a general rule of thumb, I never have an intern do work that I wouldn't do myself.  Also, keep in mind that if you give an intern nothing but grunt-work, they will likely tell their college - and you will never get an intership from there again.

The Positives:  Interns, generally speaking, are energetic and eager to learn.  If you give them projects, they typically attack them with gusto.  Let me be creative and encourage them to give you open, honest feedback.  Having another voice involved with your projects can be an incredible help - if you read this blog regularly, you've likely seen entries by Stephanie, my intern - and I cannot tell you how much easier she has made my life and how much better she has made the projects that I work on.

The Negatives:  Interns aren't on auto-pilot.  Like any other staffer, they require time and effort to supervise and develop projects.  If you don't have this kind of time, or you don't have extra work to give (this is sometimes harder then it sounds), and intern may not be right for you.

Where can I get them? Thankfully, we have seven colleges in the Lehigh Valley, and all have active career development centers.  Here are a list of where to find them on the web:
Also, don't forget to reach out to the Chairs of specific departments - if you an accounting firm, send an E-mail to the chair of the Accounting Department - if you run a small business, E-mail the head of the business department, etc.

I hope this information was helpful!

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