If you are a startup, you should hire an intern — now.  Yes, in the middle of the covid crises when teams are virtual.  

We know that it sounds crazy.  But, because of covid, many companies, large and small, are letting employees go and pausing planned hiring. This includes cancelling student summer jobs and internships.

As a result, a new pool of talented and highly motivated students is looking for opportunities that will provide them real work experience. For example, over 75 students applied last minute for StartingBlock’s internship SNAP program that matches students with local Madison startups.  Marc Yarmoff, who runs the SNAP program, says, “These students want to work on projects that make a difference and with teams that challenge and mentor them — something that lean, early stage startups can excel at.”

Unfortunately, startups often don’t take advantage of student talent because of the Find – Compete – Manage problem:

Find:  Finding interns can be time-consuming and lean startups don’t have time to devote to finding interns interested in early stage startup experience.

Compete: Startups (think that they) can’t compete against paid internship opportunities with more established companies and/or can’t afford hiring paid interns.

Manage: Startups don’t have experience managing interns.

But, startups by their nature are innovative, lean, and flexible.  Use these skills to your advantage. Read on to find out how you can find, compete and manage interns and turn your interns into a valuable talent asset for your startup.

FIND: Finding a student intern

StartingBlock’s SNAP! program pairs college students looking for real-world startup experience with early to mid-stage startup companies hiring interns for summer and fall 2020. SNAP! is free to student applicants and all startup members of StartingBlock Madison; $50 for other startups. Paid internship offerings aren’t required, but startups are encouraged to compensate interns for the work they are doing. The city of Madison sets the livable minimum wage at $13.62/hr. Startups should be less than ten years old and have less than 30 employees; ready to provide student interns with a great learning opportunity; and able to appropriately support interns. SNAP! Is the easiest, fastest, and most inexpensive way to find a student intern from all colleges and universities in the Madison area, making this a great opportunity for lean startups hiring student talent. For more information check out our SNAP! program page or contact Marc Yarmoff (marc@startingblockmadison.org).

Utilizing Handshake and Glassdoor is another great way to find the perfect intern for your company. Handshake is an app that connects college students with open positions, mainly internships and entry level jobs. Over 14 million students and young alumni from over 700 universities use Handshake. The app is connected to the school career centers, streamlining the process for employers, counselors, and student candidates. Glassdoor on the other hand, is a website where current and former employees can anonymously review companies. Glassdoor also allows users to anonymously submit and view salaries as well as search and apply for jobs on its platform. Once you set up an account with these services, you can post internship openings within your organization. After the internship opportunity has been posted, you can actively target priority groups to engage the people you want to hire. You will be able to keep track of candidate engagement and monitor your pipeline’s progress by reviewing verified student information and your full engagement history. Both services offer free options to post jobs, but additional helpful features are unlocked through subscription. These job opening databases are especially prevalent right now, because you won’t be limited to the local talent pool when searching for the ideal remote interns.

The third option here is to contact schools directly and speak to the director of the appropriate college program that you would like to explore internship options with. Many college programs have experience with connecting their students to companies for for-credit internship opportunities, these are the programs that will be easiest to communicate with. Make sure to do your research beforehand and have a clear idea of what type of intern you are looking for. One thing to keep in mind is that many of these school programs won’t be familiar with the format of a remote internship, but will most likely be getting many similar inquiries.  According to Dr. Matthew T. Hora, the director of UW’s Center for Research on College to Workforce Transitions, “It is likely that many of the nation’s, if not the world’s, internships will be moving online in the near future.”  Through online internships, companies can “provide students with a safe, work-based learning experience that is grounded in an authentic task or project for a firm or organization.” 

 

COMPETE: Student Interns are a great deal.  Even for cash-strapped startups.

Interns are a great deal if you manage them well. There are a handful of awesome programs right here at UW-Madison that give students credit for completing internships. The School of Human Ecology (SoHE), College of Letters & Science (L&S), Wisconsin School of Business (WSB), and Life Science Communication (LSC) are some great resources to utilize for finding for-credit / free interns!

Local resources:

School of Human Ecology (SoHE) 

  • SoHE is the only school or college at the UW that requires its students to have an internship
  • Interns must be junior standing or higher
  • Interns must log 150+ hours in exchange for 3 credits
  • Interns must complete an independent project
  • The internship must last at least 12 weeks in Fall or Spring, or 6 weeks in Summer
  • The internship must apply directly to the student’s major, and must not exceed 25% clerical work
  • Full details
  • Contact: Danielle Croegaert
    • 608-265-3572
    • danielle.croegaert@wisc.edu

College of Letters & Science (L&S)

  • L&S is the largest & broadest school or college at the UW that produces interdisciplinary students
  • It’s recommended by L&S staff to source L&S students through Handshake
  • The internship course, Inter-LS 260, is 1 credit and only requires the internship to be educational, clearly defined, and directly supervised
  • Full details & application
  • Contact: Kathleen Rause
    • kathleen.rause@wisc.edu

Wisconsin School of Business (WSB)

  • Bachelors of Business Administration (BBA) students can be hired for credit in the WSB internship course GB 450 which is for 1 credit
  • GB 450 requires the student to write an essay about their experience
  • Contact: Office
    • (608) 262-1550

Life Science Communication (LSC)

  • 3 credit internship course that is taught semesterly by Tom Still, President of the Wisconsin Technology Council
  • Interns in this course work 6 hours per week at their internship
  • Contact: Tom Still
    • 608-442-7557
    • TStill@wisconsintechnologycouncil.com

 

MANAGE: Interns will thrive if they feel supported and valued

Interns are looking for real-world experience in a professional environment where they can break free of their comfort zone and learn skills that they can apply to their future career. It is your job to create structure for your interns, ensuring that they have the tools and information to maximize productivity. “Internships play a vital role in kick-starting careers for driven high school and college students.” Notes Heather Wentler, Executive Director and Co-Founder at Doyenne Group, an entrepreneurial ecosystem builder investing in the power and potential of women entrepreneurs. “These students already have a wealth of skills and knowledge learned in the classroom and through life experiences, and now they need a safe professional environment to apply and develop these strengths, to the benefit of the hosting organization and for their future careers.” 

Interns should always have a first point of contact as well, someone who they feel comfortable approaching with questions or concerns. Keep the communication flowing, connect each day with your intern to make sure that they have a clear list of priorities and don’t have any unforeseen factors holding them back or causing confusion. Let them know what you’ll be accomplishing that that day and set a good example by crushing your productivity workplace goals. Interns are people who want to feel valued and accomplished at the end of the day. Providing a healthy, structured environment for them to thrive will set them up for success, and once the internship is complete, they will have accumulated a wealth of skills and knowledge, and created meaningful connections that will be mutually beneficial down the road. “Building a professional network at a young age is highly beneficial.” Says Rob Roquitte, CEO and Co-Founder at eCIO, an investment management platform for nonprofits. “During an internship, students will have the opportunity to build relationships with professionals in a career that they’d like to pursue. There is a 1 in 16 chance of securing a job simply by connecting with successful people, so networking through an internship is critical.” Don’t know how to manage a virtual student intern?  Here are some best practices and digital resources:

Daily Stand Up

The Stand Up is essential to keep communication flowing. Nothing puts a damper on productivity quite like confusion. This 15-30 minute video call (via the free Google Hangouts service) each morning is the perfect way to start the day, ensuring that no one is confused as to what their priorities are and how to accomplish their projects. It’s also a great way to build trust within the team, as everyone is given the floor to communicate what they’ve accomplished, what they will accomplish, and if they need assistance from the rest of the team.

Daily Stand Up Questions:

  1. What did you accomplish yesterday?
  2. What do you plan to accomplish today?
  3. When do you think you’ll be done with that?
  4. Do you need anything from the team?

 

Trello Project Template Cards

Creating a Trello card template for intern projects is a great way to keep track of projects that your intern has completed, the steps that they took along the way, and simplifies larger projects by breaking them into more manageable chunks. The other great thing about creating a Trello card project template is that the intern can fill out the template themselves to propose a project to their manager.

 

No SLACKing off

Slack is an essential text-based communication tool for times when team members and interns can’t meet face to face. Between file sharing, creative “Slackbots”, and general streamlined texting, slack will always be occupying one of your tabs and driving productivity through collaboration.

 

The Google Suite is free

You’re probably already familiar with the Google Suite, but as far as free tools go, Docs, Sheets, and Slides are second to none. If you’re looking to keep costs low and provide interns with the file management tools they need to succeed in your company, the Google Suite is a must.

 

By utilizing these simple tools, you can create a simple but effective remote internship program. Let’s not allow this pandemic to negatively impact the future careers of today’s talented and driven students!

For more information and ideas on best practices for remote internship programs, check out these helpful resources that we’ve been drawing inspiration from:

  1. Four Steps To Virus-Proof Your Summer Internship – Forbes
  2. Covid-19 and Social Distancing Do Not Need to End College Internships – WCER
  3. How to Manage Interns – Inc.
  4. 6 Ways to Be a Great Boss to Your Intern – The Muse
  5. 5 Must-Dos for First-Time Intern Managers – The Muse
  6. How to Actually Manage an Intern – Career Contessa
  7. How to Effectively Manage an Intern – Medium

 

We’re in this together

Through application of the best practices, your intern(s) will complete their internship experience feeling fulfilled and confident in learned and applied skills, ready to tackle their next opportunity. Mutually beneficial intern relationships are cultivated by simply taking the time to ensure that they are consistently treated with respect and feel motivated and understood. And it’s absolutely awesome that we have access to free tools that make streamlined remote internships (on a budget) possible!

 

 

Written By

Gabriel Merithew

StartingBlock Internship Manager. Former intern at StartingBlock and gBeta. CEOs Of Tomorrow alumni.

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