Developing New “Career Girls” Through a Great Internship Program
It’s no secret that Career Girl Network lives in the space between being a tech start-up and a media start-up. And living in that identity, especially given that we are – to use a buzzword term in the start-up world – bootstrapping the business, hiring staff members is not always a possibility. We would absolutely love to have a staff of 10+ working on everything from website coding to public relations, but cash flow is king, and staff members are expensive.
So, a few months ago, I took the advice of my good friend Brittany Graunke at Zealous Good. Brittany is a fellow “bootstrapper” who moved the needle incredibly on her new business last summer with a team of interns. She encouraged me to hire interns, and helped me to decide where to list our internships, the kinds of young people to hire, and more. Thanks, Brittany! The process of finding what turned out to be five incredibly bright young women to work at CGN this summer began in March, and included writing job descriptions, posting on internship boards at colleges across the Midwest, and reaching out to fellow start-ups for advice and recommendations.
But the hard part of developing a great internship came after the interviews and offers had been made. What would we do to make our internship truly impactful, both for these young women, and for the company? I was very lucky to have college internships that were formative in my career, and rarely included making copies or fetching coffee. I wanted the experience for our young women to be the same.
So we created a set of strategies that I hope will make the CGN internship program the best it can possibly be. Use these strategies to craft your own company’s internship program, and you’ll have not only happy interns, but hopefully those who make great strides for your company as well.
- Titles count. What looks better on a resume? “Career Girl Network Intern” or “Marketing and Public Relations Specialist.” These young women are bringing their time and talents to my office for months. It’s the least I can do as a company and a boss to give them a real job title. Do the same for your interns. Give them a title, order business cards, and give them email addresses (far too often, I see companies with emails like email@example.com No one is going to respond positively to that kind of an email).
- Write specific job descriptions. When you bring on an intern without a specific job description, it becomes very easy to give them tasks like copying, coffee making and typing. However, if you write a specific title and a specific job description for each intern, you empower that person with responsibilities and tasks that they own and can develop.
- Get them out of the office! Of course, given that I wrote a book about networking, I recognize its important in the life of any professional from CEO to intern. Interns, especially during the summer, often don’t reside in the same city they’re working in during the school year. Therefore, they won’t know the ropes of networking in your city. Make it a priority to ensure your interns are going to networking events, participating in local networking groups, and getting introduced to the right people in their field. Go with them, introduce them to people, and prepare them for their post-graduation career.
- Mentorship means something. If all goes well, hopefully you and your colleagues will be great mentors to the young people you bring into your internship program. But what happens if you’re not enough? Reach out to a colleague in your intern’s desired field outside your company and ask them to formally mentor your intern. Each of our five interns has been matched with a mentor in their desired field who has agreed to meet with them at least three times this summer to help them navigate their internship, networking, and more.
As we embark on the start of our internship program, I wish you all well with summer interns you might have, and implore you to treat them the same as you would any paid staff member. If anything, they’re risking more than a paid staff member, in that they’re often giving you their time and talents for only the option of college credit or less.