Why You Shouldn’t Underestimate Interns


 
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This blog was written by Tiffany Ujjin, Sales and Marketing Intern for Setup. 

Connect with Tiffany on LinkedIn

 

The old-fashioned perception of interns being coffee runners, paper copiers, and clean up crew members is outdated. Bottom line is, organizations need interns.

Setup spoke about finding, recruiting, and hiring marketing talent at the latest #MarketersBreakfast. During that conversation, I was shocked to learn that many marketing leaders expressed that recruiting mid-level talent was difficult or even impossible to find.

The thing is…talent does exist, but, more often than not, leaders need to invest in young professionals’ careers at earlier stages.

When asked about internship programs, the majority of the same leaders felt that their internship programs were inadequate. If everyone continues to think about interns as burdens rather than assets, how are any of these young professionals supposed to lay the foundation needed to fill the mid-level talent gap? 

The reality is that driven, talented, and malleable young professionals are hungry for experiences that will help them grow - and that is a huge asset. Interns have endless potential, but they need to be given the chance to shine. These young adults are showing up and stepping up to excel in internship programs. 

 

Why You Shouldn’t Underestimate Interns:

Interns provide a fresh perspective 

Does your team ever get stuck on a problem with no clear solution?

I’m not saying that an intern will make all those challenges disappear, but interns add a fresh set of eyes to an organization. Since they are younger or newer to the industry, interns enter the room with a different background, mindset, or worldview, looking at problems from a new angle. 

Especially since colleges are now teaching the newest marketing technology, interns are gaining experience in tactically relevant areas of marketing, enabling them to contribute unique solutions to organizational challenges. Their fresh perspective can fill gaps and connect the dots.

 

Interns want to help 

With the amount of pressure on many marketing teams increasing, it’s no wonder turnover rates are increasing as well.

If they are given the opportunity, interns can lift a tremendous load off of the team’s shoulders.

It is in the interest of both parties to provide interns with actual work - not just busy work. Empowering interns with real, impactful tasks builds up their experience and confidence, while checking off boxes on the team’s to-do list. They can only do this, however, if they are onboarded correctly and trusted to handle the workload. So, if you are looking to hire an intern, be sure that the intern has a capable manager who can optimize their efforts. 

 

Interns are a positive force

Like seeing newborn puppies on your Facebook feed, incoming interns can inject an exciting energy into the office. If the company’s culture supports its interns, new conversations, experiences, and opportunities are bound to ensue.

That said, when accepting the internship offer, the interns agreed to be a part of something bigger than themselves - give them the chance to do that.

Networking and mentorship opportunities are absolutely essential. Introduce the interns to different departments, and connect them with noteworthy thought leaders in your industry space! In doing so, the interns not only gain a better understanding of the business and all of its moving parts, but they can develop meaningful relationships. There’s even a possibility that the interns could find a new passion in an unexpected field.

At the SPARKsouth event last year, Melissa Proctor, the CMO for the Hawks, mentioned her time at Turner where she met with different leaders in the company and asked how she could be an asset to them instead of a liability. So basically, introducing interns to people, jobs, and projects could lead to your next CMO.

 

Interns are capable

Contrary to popular belief, some interns do have experience and are capable of handling a plethora of tasks. 

From club involvement to part-time jobs and school projects, interns will surprise you with the experiences they do have under their belt. Many are familiar with multiple software systems, design platforms, handling numerous projects, multitasking, time management, and innovative thinking.

For example, I came into my internship with deep experience in social media, retail sales, Adobe Lightroom, and product photography. 

Sure, handing over an important project to an intern could be detrimental, but you’re not handing over the company. Test out their skill level with mini projects throughout their time. If they prove that they can be trusted with important tasks, challenge them with harder projects.

After all, an intern reflects your hiring ability. Hopefully you hired someone you believed could advance the company in the best capacity.

Related: Need help hiring an intern or another marketing role on your team? Use these unique interview questions

 

To ensure your internship program benefits both your interns and your marketing team, here are a few tips to improve your internship program:

  • Have a plan. Implementing a successful internship program relies on intentional and detailed planning. A schedule mapping out ideas for the program keeps everyone on track and stimulated, allowing the intern to stay occupied and the manager to track progress. What are some of the templatized processes on your plate that you can offload onto an intern?

  • Allow 2-3 employees to guide an intern. Only a few team members are necessary to manage and train an intern. Having the entire team handle an intern is inefficient. That said, having one person solely in charge of the intern can be isolating and limit the experience gained. Strike a balance.

  • Hold weekly one-on-one meetings. A weekly meeting with an intern creates open communication to ensure clarity about performance and quick solutions to any issues. 

  • Provide a competitive wage. As the classic saying goes, “you get what you pay for.” If you want to attract potential talent, paying a competitive wage (ideally, at least $12-15/hr) will garner some of the brightest candidates. If you want to use an intern for free labor, then don’t expect much.

  • Let them have a seat at the table. Giving interns the opportunity to sit with the C-Suite allows them to have a better view of the company. With a better understanding of leadership, interns can perform beyond expectations.

  • Let them have a voice. While it’s true interns often lack real world experience, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t hear them out. They have a fresh set of eyes and can provide a whole new perspective. Permitting them to have a voice allows them to feel valued and empowers them to think more strategically and be more creative. 

Although these points are crucial, there is one piece of advice that is near and dear to me personally: Give them a chance.

You don’t know until you try. Most companies may think they are hiring a top-notch candidate when, in reality, the candidate is only appealing on paper. Companies in pursuit of the “perfect” intern will inevitably suffer from tunnel vision, dismissing capable and hungry candidates who are a perfect fit. The underdog may surprise you and work harder to exceed expectations because they are grateful for the opportunity. 

All this to say: Hire for hunger - not for experience. No one hires an intern for their previous experience. Give a chance to the candidate who’s only worked as a sales clerk at a clothing store...who may only have retail experience, but exhibits enthusiasm and a drive to learn and be more. Hire the candidate that’s hungry.

TL;DR?

  1. Classroom experience is not the same as real-world experiences - interns can only build so much experience on their own. Give them the opportunities they crave to grow, challenge, and expand their knowledge and you’ll see some benefit in return!

  2. Be the change you want to see in the world. If marketing leaders are struggling to hire mid-level talent and dislike their internship programs, they need to make a change. Investing in programs to thoroughly onboard and adequately train interns will feed into hiring ideal employees down the road. 

  3. Realigning your perspective about interns could drastically benefit your team in the long-run. Treating interns like they are a part of them team instead of a temporary addition could lead to untapped insights and new perspectives.

  4. Hire for hunger - not for experience.