Blogs, Ned Dwyer

Don’t hire interns, partner with them

StartupSmart /

In the US and Europe internships at high profile companies are highly competitive, with only a few places available and huge list of applicants keen to get into the program. And it’s not easy to get in – for many you will need a post-graduate qualification and a quality portfolio just to get in the door.

The reason is that many of these internships offer a chance to work with some of the greatest companies and the greatest minds in their respective fields – something money can’t buy.

They are also (modestly) paid opportunities which can help the intern to learn new skills and make the transition between studying their craft and becoming a professional.

In Australia things are dramatically different.

Too many companies offer unpaid internships where the primary task is stuffing envelopes or doing other menial work. The problem here is that not only is the intern not learning anything beyond how to do admin but they’re often getting unpaid – something which makes an internship illegal in Australia.

In my opinion the primary purpose of an internship should be to help an individual to discover what their chosen career is actually like. They need to be nurtured, to be taught new skills and ideas and then to leave the workplace a better person, hopefully as someone more employable.

We have a small internship program at Native Digital though we don’t generally advertise it. We’re looking for the best and brightest because we know how much time we need to allocate to working with them to make them better employees.

Through running our program we’ve met some incredible people, including several who have since become employees or contractors.

We often refer to the interns that come through Native as partners. We’re looking for people who are bright and talented but who might not yet know what they’re good at or how to monetise their skills. We partner with these people to create something that helps them on their journey in whatever they want to do. One of the best examples of this process is http://touris.ms – a site we created with our partner Joe Miranda and client Adioso.com. Check out the site and its content and you can see the kinds of ideas that can come about when you give talented people enough rope.

It sounds like commonsense but treat everyone who comes in contact with your business with respect and you’ll get it back tenfold.

If you run an intern program I’d love to hear about it. What do you look for in an intern/partner? What sort of work do they do?

We’ve posted our intern manual online. Feel free to copy it to suit your business, it’s licensed under a Creative Commons 2.0 sharealike attribution license.

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