Three Simple Steps in the Quest to Find Your Ideal Intern

Last week, you heard from my intern, Megan, on four reasons why interns are motivated to help you. Are you convinced? I sure was! (And if you haven't check it out yet—yes, she does address the question of money!)

This week, you're getting the follow-up by my second intern, Michael. We've talked about the WHY, and now we'll hit you with the HOW. I'm not sure which of those two questions resonates with you when you're thinking about an intern, but hopefully, we'll provide you with the answers needed to take that next step.

I've only had Megan and Michael for about a month, and am already so thankful for them. So, do yourself a favor and go get an intern (or two). Not sure how? Just keep reading!

 Three Simple Steps in the Quest to Find Your Ideal Intern

It’s the end of February and the New Year has already gifted us all with a handsomely exhaustive list of responsibilities…

Social media drafts are long overdue, email updates stack a mile high, and blog posts eagerly await an obligatory glimpse. Somewhere in the sewage of this chaos, you also discover that your most urgent and time-sensitive tasks are often the very ones which you’ve neglected.

But, SUDDENLY, you have an epiphany—you don’t have to do this all on your own! What if you had a helping hand? After all, for every Batman exists a Robin, for every Scooby a Shaggy, and for every Cher a respective Sonny.

What if . . . you had an intern?

You may not be able to offer your intern a salary, but you have compensation in the form of experience that they desperately desire. They can serve as more than a glorified coffee runner, and even play a crucial role in keeping your small business or nonprofit operating at optimum speed.

Finding an intern is actually less complicated than one might assume. There’s not one algorithm that will do the trick or one method superior to others, however, let’s explore three, overarching avenues that will aid your search.

Finding the right intern for your organization lies at the intersection of three avenues:

  1. An understanding of the qualifications for your intern role

  2. A correct and detailed intern position description

  3. An idea of where to find the best interns for your nonprofit or social enterprise

1. Outline your requirements for potential interns.

Think of the search for an intern as paving a yellow brick road that will steer the right candidates to the doors of your organization. If that’s the case, you should to be clear from both an academic and professional perspective so that the right person rings the doorbell.

This begins with you carefully outlining prerequisites including educational achievements (high school, GRE, undergraduate and graduate), portfolio samples you may want to see, and prior work experience. One company might be looking for tenured university seniors with previous agency experience, while others are looking for malleable minds that are eager to learn. The choice is yours, however, you cannot expect more, and receive less, without setting expectations. In turn, you might also discover that you have hired an intern whose skills and talents far exceed the amount of work you have to offer them.

Just remember that it’s okay to be selective. An internship needs to be the right fit for both parties.

 

2. Create a clearly defined intern job description, including the benefits they’ll receive.

No one likes to be exclusive, however, in terms of finding the perfect intern, a certain degree of exclusivity needs to be shown. And just so that we don’t parallel the clique from Mean Girls, let’s put it this way—it’s not them, it’s you.

Be open to students with skills and attributes that may be uncommon for your line of work, however, don’t be deceptive in a job description. If they are looking for a for-profit sales role and you work strictly in nonprofit fundraising, they might not be the right fit. Again . . . that’s okay!

So how do you ensure that your role or program is a right fit for the applicant? Before you begin soliciting resumes, clearly define and outline job standards and provide candidates with an overview of the program in which they’ll be participating. And if your internship provides certifications, credits, or payment, be sure to list these in the job description, too.

Finally, be specific in the language you use to describe the internship. Good candidates don’t often migrate toward listings that use generic language. Because internships can last a series of months (even entire semesters), potential interns want to know exactly what it is that they’ll be doing.

You may even want to look at other intern postings online to help you decide what to include.

 

3. Use the Internet and your existing network to help you find an intern.

Most of the individuals searching for an internship experience are students and young alumni. Because it’s likely that these individuals haven’t had extensive amounts of career experience, it’s easier to mold their talents and help them hone in on those they haven’t yet developed. And that should be exciting for both you and them.

To find your young Padawan, it’s essential to utilize the correct platforms. For now, we’ll focus on three outlets to aid your search: career centers, online postings, and personal networking.

Career Centers

The vast majority of large universities and colleges are outfitted with programs and facilities that provide their students with professional working opportunities. Some universities might call it a career centeror “services/development program. The jargon’s all a little different, but globally, the mission is the same—to find work experience, internships, and jobs for students and recent graduates.

Cast your eyes on the example of New York University, which operates the Wasserman Center for Career Development. This career center provides extensive lists of internship opportunities, jobs, and sound advice in the sojourn of career discovery.

My advice to you is to shoot for the stars! Contact every university career center in your respective city or state, and use those centers to network your way to great candidates. They can provide you with potential career fair dates, ensuring that you can speak with students in person, or potentially provide listings or direct links for your internship on their website.

As you build relationships with students and career centers, you’ll develop a steady stream of candidates through pre-existing relationships. And when students provide positive feedback about you to their career centers, you’re more likely to receive continuous and high-quality candidates. The other benefit of going through career centers is, of course, that they’ll often do the regular work of searching for your intern so that you don’t have to!

 

Online Postings

Remember, the interweb is a friend not a foe. This is an essential element to the success of finding your intern in the haystack.

To get even more specific, when looking for interns in university-level programs, go to the places they would go. Posting ads on Craigslist won’t aid you in the process of searching for an intern if the population you’re searching for isn’t using Craigslist.

Students and recent grads alike utilize a multitude of websites, some of the most popular being LinkedIn and Handshake. LinkedIn proves to be a necessary networking tool for the duration of careers, as you probably already know. To ensure that you are fully utilizing LinkedIn, make sure to join groups with similar missions to promote your business and discover talent. I found this article particularly useful.

Additionally, in searching for interns, I’d insist on using a website called Handshake, which directly targets college students and young alumni. Handshake specifically has access to over 8 million students and young adults, and more than 475 career centers. Convenient, eh?

And should you wish to cast your net wider, many standard job posting sites like Idealist and Work For Good also allow for internship listings.

Personal Networks

Last but certainly not least, don’t underestimate the potential of your personal network. The people you already know may help you find your best interns.

It’s easiest to start with your friends and family. Put out the word that you’re looking for an intern, and see if they can help you fill the spot quickly. Just remember to include that clearly-defined intern job description, even when talking to people casually.

Next, post about the internship on your personal and professional social media outlets and in groups. This is a great, and fast, way to spread the word about your opportunity.

And a final example is the connections you have with clients or peers in the same field. More than often, students and young alumni are looking for more than one consecutive internship. One summer they might work for a for-profit manufacturer that produces burlap supplies for a local, nonprofit coffee shop. But next summer, that same intern wants to work at the coffee shop itself. So, reach out to your partners and colleagues for contacts.

With a little preparation and planning, you’ll find your dynamic duo. The Robin to your Batman. The Sonny to your Cher.

By the way, did you miss the first post on why an intern might want to help you? You can read it right here!


Michael Banks, Intern at Signify

Michael Griffith Banks is a fourth-year Public Relations Major at the University of Georgia with a minor in Spanish. He’s throughly involved with UGA’s Office of Admissions, most recently serving as an Orientation Leader for the University.



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 Finding an intern can actually be less complicated than you might think.

 Kristi Porter, founder of Signify

I'm Kristi Porter, and I started Signify to provide writing, consulting and strategy services to nonprofits and for-profit organizations with a social mission, primarily through copywriting, marketing, and business communications. I believe that cause-focused organizations like yours are the future of business. You're proof that companies can both make money and do good. And I'm here to help you get noticed and grow. When you succeed, we all win.