It’s Summer. Should you have an intern?


It’s already May and students across the country are trying to secure a summer internship (while their parents and grandparents cross their fingers).

Many businesses are happy to have the extra help—but before you commit to taking on a student or recent graduate, you should carefully consider what value an intern will bring to your organization and what benefits they will gain from the experience. Here are some specific factors to consider:

1. Do you have real work for an intern 40 hours a week? 

Getting coffee and surfing the web don’t count. Interns are considered to be trainees instead of employees under federal law—but that doesn't mean they shouldn't have real responsibilities. What skills will your intern learn and use?

2. Do you have the time to manage an intern? 

Interns need a structured work experience as much as regular employees do. And as they become more acclimated to the position, they'll naturally want to do more. Someone has to tell them what “more” is.

3. Can you afford an intern? 

While interns often work for no salary in return for educational opportunities, they still consume resources. Whether it is uniforms, meals, travel expenses, a computer, or just wear and tear on the office, interns are not cost neutral. Have you budged this expense and can you afford it?

4. Finally, what if the internship doesn’t work out? 

Say you take your best friend’s daughter (or son) as an intern. You’ve known the kid for years and she seems great. But, after a year in college she has developed some bad habits and doesn’t act professionally in the office. What will you tell your friend if you decide to let her go? How embarrassing could this be?

The above questions pertain to general practices for integrating interns into your organization. You should always review relevant state and federal labor laws before opening up an internship to determine if—among other considerations—the position should be paid or unpaid. But don't be scared off! Internships are a great opportunity for students and a valuable asset for employers.