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Startup Internships Advice

Considering hiring interns for your startup or need some extra help to drive business impact? Our Product Design Manager, Scott Kirkman, explains how internship programs can succeed for everyone involved.

21 Mar 2022 by Annie Symonds

Hiring interns could be the answer to help your team get on top of their workloads while being able to concentrate on more important tasks within the business. Hiring an intern could be a win-win for everyone involved! Think about it, the intern gains precious work experience to help them grow, and you'll see the benefits of a productive intern ready to help with smaller tasks you never have time for.

In this guide, our Product Design Manager, Scott Kirkman shares his personal experience hiring interns for startups and why the concept has worked well for his team.

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When is the timing is right to hire interns?

You might be asking yourself when the right time is to start looking to hire an intern. One of the biggest mistakes many entrepreneurs make is by taking on too many tasks and not realizing when they need to let go and delegate them to other people. You may think it will take too much time to train someone else to do a task than to do it yourself.

If you hire an intern willing to learn, you might just be able to offload plenty of tasks they can get on with while you're concentrating on more important issues within the business.

Scott said:

You'll know when is the right time to hire interns simply when the workload is becoming too much.

How long to employ an intern for?

Unsure how long to have an intern in the office for? Some companies have work experience interns for two weeks; others have paid and unpaid internships for 12 months. At Coassemble, we have a Summer intern currently for three months. Ideally, if you're working at a startup, Scott suggests you might like to hire an intern for six months because working in a startup is fast-paced and before you know it, the intern's time is up!

Paid versus unpaid internships

Wondering if you can take on unpaid interns? Our current interns are based in our Australian office; the law states you have to pay interns unless it's for educational purposes.

If you're based in USA, both the employer and intern must agree that it will be an unpaid internship from the start. You'll also need to make sure there is a clear connection between the intern's educational program and job responsibilities.

Check out our Intern Onboarding Template, which you can dive into and customize

It's not just about offloading tedious tasks

Scott learned the true value of an intern program as he was assigned to mentor them in a previous role. During that time, his confidence grew and grew as he soon realized how much he had learned since joining the company.

This means that hiring interns doesn't only give you space to handle more important work; it also gives you the opportunity to put what you've learned into practice by teaching an intern different tasks that need to be completed.

As we build new internship programs at Coassemble, we can give more junior team members the responsibility of training interns. This will give them confidence and allow them to grow at a much faster level than if they were just delegated different tasks.

How to find an amazing intern

Wondering how to find a fantastic intern who will listen and take action as and when needed? If you're looking for Product designers, you might like you to check out a site called Design Kids who advertise epic jobs all over the world.

It would be good to approach local universities and grad schools to find a college student just like Scott did. Well, Scott actually worked at the local university and kept a note of the exceptional students he taught. He looked out for interns with good energy & attitude, people who show up on time and submit their work on time, and generally students who were excited to be in class. And that is how we found our interns.

But, if you're looking on sites like LinkedIn or Glassdoor, you'll need to check out the quality of their work and see if they've gone the extra mile for their projects. If their portfolio looks really good, you'll need to identify their passion for seeing if they'll make a good fit.

You should also advertise on your company's social media pages and reach out via your social pages as you might be able to help a student gain access work experience to help them go for future jobs.

How to plan the process before implementing an internship program

Wondering what you need to do to get your intership program off the ground?

Start by writing out a list of all of the basic tasks you could hand over to an intern. Break it down even further and outline what the tasks involve and how long it will take the intern to complete. You'll need to list the tasks in order of priority.

Now, here's the thing; Scott recommends you start off small by giving the intern fun tasks to complete so they can find their feet and feel comfortable in a brand new working environment. As time goes on, you'll be able to add in more complex work if needed. And make sure you give them a variety of tasks so they can determine what they want to pursue as a career going forward.

As you've worked out why you need an intern, you'll need to create a fantastic job description which outlines what the potential intern will be doing and what skills are needed. And it's not all about you. Let the interns know what you'll be giving them. Think about how they are going to benefit from working for you by focussing on learning and skill development.

Intern onboarding right from the start

Make sure you get the intern onboarding program right from the start and you'll see them flourish much faster. While they will have a mentor to learn from, it will be a much faster process if they have a structured onboarding plan to learn from the moment they join your company.

Check out our Intern Onboarding Template you can customize and edit so you don't have to spend too much time trying to put it together from scratch. This will give you insights into what to do to ensure your interns are set up in the best way possible!

If there's one piece of advice

While having an intern can be fantastic for driving business impact, make sure you don't throw them into the deep end too soon. You'll want to help your interns grow with confidence so they can execute tasks without any help needed.

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