Using an intern

Struggling with workload but low on cash? Can't afford temps but need an extra pair of hands? Look no further than the helpful enthusiasm of the INTERN.

These chirpy souls come in at the bargain rate of £0.00, and a knowledge and keenness about your field come included in that price.

Don't know where to find one? Ask around friends and family, place ads in student publications or on relevant trade websites, advertise on Gumtree (which usually gets huge responses), talk to local universities and colleges and talk to local employment agencies about offering work placements to those who need more experience to get that crucial first job.

Don't know how to manage one? Follow these handy tips for getting the most from your intern:

  • Be selective - read through their cover letter and cv carefully, ensuring that they and you would benefit from the experience - look for new skills that your team currently lacks or is short on - conduct interviews if you get loads of applications
  • Be clear - make sure that they know this is an unpaid placement and explain what they can hope to get out of it
  • Be helpful - cover travel and food expenses if you can - the cost of a coffee here and there to you is a weekful of food to a student
  • Get off on the right foot - before they start, explain exactly what your business does, what time they should arrive, what time your day finishes, how best to get there, your contact details, the office dress code and anything that they might need to bring such as stationary or a notepad
  • Make them feel welcome - a chat over coffee first thing and an introduction to everyone on the team breaks down barriers and puts them more at ease
  • Don't patronise them - treat them like any other member of staff
  • Give them interesting tasks - they're working for free and deserve to get more than just filing
  • Ask for their input and ideas - someone who's new to the team has a different way of looking at things and will bring fresh life to your team's thinking - and it makes the intern feel valued
  • Be polite - they're doing you a massive favour - let them know how much you appreciate it
  • Explain things - show them how the business works, why it works, and talk them through some of your best and worst pieces of work so they can learn more about the industry
  • Give them contacts - ask about their career aspirations and help them get a leg-up by putting them in touch with anyone you know who could help
  • Give them feedback - let them know how they're doing, as they probably won't have a clue - showing them how to improve and refine their skills will also mean that you can get better work out of them
  • Give them advice - review their cv, assess their performance and give tips on how to get to where they want to be
  • Give them a chance - finally, if you're really impressed with how they've done, keep them in mind for the next time you take someone on and tell them your intentions so you both keep in touch
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