How to Work with Interns

Step-By-Step Guide

 

Interns can be a huge help to any business, and a good internship experience can be a HUGE leg up for anyone trying to establish a foothold in a fiercely competitive field. Ever since we posted How We Quadrupled Our Blog Traffic in 6 Months, we’ve been getting questions about how we find good interns, how we put interns to use, and how we reward interns for their work. Never let it be said that we do not listen to our readers! Here, by popular demand, is our step-by-step guide to working with interns:

 

FINDING INTERNS, PART 1

The best place to start looking for interns is through a college’s Career Center. Almost every college and university has job boards for undergrads and alumni, and you can usually find the correct page via Google. Different schools have different rules about whether the internship must be in a physical office or virtual, how many hours the interns must work to qualify for course credit, etc. so do some research. Listings are free, but you’ll have to fill out forms, and it’s not unusual for a career center counselor to call you with questions. Be honest and professional, and you should be fine.

 

Example: College Career Center Home Page

 

FINDING INTERNS, PART 2

Career Centers may be the most fruitful source for finding interns, but they’re hardly the only source. Use your social media network to get the word out: We posted about our internship program via Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Tumblr, and a post on our site. Through LinkedIn, I was able to post it to both of my college alma maters and to my national sorority alumni group. Soon, we had nearly a dozen internship applicants to choose from, many of which were already college graduates!

 

THINNING THE HERD VIA JOB POSTING

If you really want your business to benefit from working with interns, the most important step is finding good interns. The process of sorting the wheat from the chaff starts with the creation of your job posting. You want your listing to be as specific as possible, including the required time commitment, specific duties and, perhaps most importantly, what the intern will get out of their experience. For instance, our listing says, “Interns will gain real world experience, learn how businesses use social media, and get a professional reference.” The more specifics you include, the more time it will save you on the back end.

Intern posting

 

THINNING THE HERD VIA APPLICATION/INTERVIEW PROCESS

In addition to a resume, we require all applicants to submit a cover letter answering the following: Why do you want this internship? What do you like about Green Global Travel? What social media forms do you currently know? What’s your availability? Not only will these answers help determine if the applicant is a good fit (for us, students in the international studiescommunications and agricultural fields seem to work well), but they’ll also show you how well they follow directions and communicate effectively. The interview process takes this one step further, and is usually the deciding factor for us.

 

CLEARLY COMMUNICATE EXPECTATIONS 

For some interns, this may be their first professional working experience. Treat the internship as a professional opportunity and you can expect your intern to do the same. It begins with effective communication of what the job entails, with specific assigned tasks and weekly quotas. For us, this includes checking email regularly, reporting weekly numbers (new people followed, how many followed back, RTs posted, etc.) and giving us advance notice if they can’t work a certain day or need to adjust goals. It’s also important to communicate clearly the things they should not do: Our interns are instructed NEVER to interact personally on social media as Green Global Travel. They can leave comments on blogs under their own name (i.e. Megan @ Green Global Travel) or RT new people we’re following. But we want to make sure if someone gets a personal message via FB/Twitter/SU, it’s coming from me or Bret.

 

Tracking Intern Progress

 

MEASURE RESULTS, THEN SHARE WITH THE INTERN 

Everybody likes to know that their efforts are making a difference. One of the best things you can do for your intern is to measure the results of their work, then share those results with them so they can chart their own progress and the impact they’re having on the company. For example, one intern single-handedly helped us increase our Twitter followers by 2000 in 3 months. Another, by Stumbling 25 pages a day (in addition to the 25 or so Bret and I do from our friends’ shares), helped us quadruple our StumbleUpon traffic in 3 months. By quantifying actions and measuring results, the interns get a sense of accomplishment and statistics they can put on their resume, while we get a huge boost in building our business.

 

GIVE BACK

Reciprocity is the key to building long-term relationships with anyone, and interns are no exception. If you want to get the most out of an intern, be prepared to invest time in their development. I spend about one hour on intern management for every 5 hours of work they give us. Find out what they’re looking to get out of the experience, and then tailor the position to help them reach their goals. Megan, the intern who did such a kick-ass job on our Twitter followers, is looking to get into PR, so we recently promoted her to PR Assistant and have assigned her more responsibilities. Encourage interns to generate ideas that can streamline your processes, and collaborate with them to refine your strategies over time. And if you have perks you can send their way (travel opportunities, free travel gear, etc.), little gifts never hurt!

 

This may not be everything you need to know about working with interns– a big part of the job is just managing people with different personalities, priorities and schedules– but these are the basic steps that can help you find the intern that’s right for you. If you have any further questions, feel free to add them to our comments section below and either Bret or I will respond asap.  –Mary Gabbett

If you enjoy reading How To Work With Interns, you might also like:

Seeking Interns for Summer & Beyond

33 Responses to How To Work With Interns: A Step-By-Step Guide

  • Turtle says:

    Do you think I could get an intern to travel the world with me? (Surely, at the very least, it would be a tax deduction?)

    • Bret Love says:

      Michael, I’m fairly certain there are LOTS of folks who’d volunteer to work for you. If we had a dollar for every time someone had offered to be our assistant if they could travel as our assistant, I’m pretty sure we’d have enough $$$ to hire one…

  • Adam Costa says:

    Brilliant post Mary!

    You’ve sent my wife and I to drawing board – we’ve already mapped out four key areas of our business that can (and should) be done by someone else. We’ve hired employees/virtual assistants before, but the value of working with bright, talented interns such as yours seems like a clear winner.

    Hat tip to you both!

    • Bret Love says:

      Thanks, Adam! We appreciate your advice on our SEO stuff, so let us know if we can help you out in any way with your social media strategery. You know how much we love reciprocity!

  • Alouise says:

    This is a really great post. I’m actually in University right now, in a communications field (Professional Writing) and I never even considered interning for another blogger as part of my course credit, and my program requires a one year internship. I might have to look into interning on another blog. It looks like a mutually beneficial relationship for both parties.

    • Bret Love says:

      If you decide you want to pursue that, Alouise, I know somebody VERY close to me that you could talk to! ;-)

  • Great post. You guys have done a wonderful job of creating substantial value for both yourselves and the interns. The work they’ve done in promoting your brand is quite impressive.

    • Bret Love says:

      Thanks, Anthony! As an editor for magazines, one of my proudest achievements was helping young aspiring writers develop the skills they need to become professionals. It’s been really rewarding to take that approach and apply it to our own business. And though we’re only a few months into our internship program, we’ve gotten great feedback so far, and of course we’re pleased as punch with the results.

  • Allan says:

    I find your posts interesting but always wonder why you are not willing to do the work yourself. Hiring interns for free seems unfair.

    Most successful travel bloggers, and I know a lot, do the work themselves and don’t have to talk about it. That is probably why they have not been responding to you.

    Just Sayin

    • Bret Love says:

      There was a time when everyone walked everywhere, but then someone figured out that humans could ride horses, build steam trains and create combustible engines. Just because something’s been done a certain way for five years, that doesn’t mean it’s the best way to do it. As a student of history, I understand that innovation always brings criticism, but I thank you for your compliment and will agree to disagree with your opinion.

  • We are going through the process now of hiring interns. This has really helped me to know how to best approach it. Thanks so so much Mary and Bret. I am now off to create my advertisement.

    • Bret Love says:

      That’s awesome, Caz! It’s so great having a supportive team to work with, all working together towards a common goal. And, knowing you, I’m guessing the opportunity to help provide guidance for young spirits willing to learn will prove extremely rewarding.

  • I’m so glad I read this before moving forward to look for interns. Already, this is saving me from a couple of pitfalls. Thank you!

  • Michael says:

    Very smart, great information here Bret and I love the approach you are taking in finding new ways to foster growth in both your site and the interns. It’s a win win when your also investing the time in their development.

    • Bret Love says:

      Thanks, Michael! If the sharing of our strategies can help foster growth for others, there’s even more win to go around. Charlie Sheen would be proud!

  • Wanderplex says:

    Hey Bret, thanks for going through this in so much detail! As someone who worked as a professional journalist and went through a lot of interning/grunt work to get there, I’ve always been hesitant to take on interns for my site unless I felt I could provide them something of value in return for their hard work. I like seeing that you have created a “structure” for your internship programs and are working with the interns to ensure they are learning and gaining from the arrangement. Your post is very helpful for ensuring others go about setting up their internship programs in a mutually beneficial way.

  • What a brilliant idea to hire interns — I’d only ever considered hiring freelancers, which can get expensive! I totally would have interned for a blog when I was in college (instead of the crap internships where I basically just made photocopies).

  • How do you ensure they will be reliable though? Just a trust thing I take it?

  • You guys are leading the way at the moment in helping new bloggers and so thankful for all your help! While I don’t think you will actually do it as you prefer to help bloggers mutually and freely you should consider packaging all this info up and selling it sometime :)

  • Jarmo says:

    Thanks, this was really interesting; as was your previous post also about growing the size of the blog. I’ve been thinking recently about outsourcing certain work from my blog, and internships might be one option, although maybe just not now. But the structure and monitoring you’ve mentioned have definitely given me some ideas. Cheers!

  • I love the idea about working with interns, and I am fascinated by the fact that you increased your stumble upon traffic so much just by doing 25 more stumbles a day! That is amazing!

  • Laurel says:

    This post is perfect timing. I’ve been pulling my hair out with too much to do and was thinking of outsourcing a few things and hiring interns to do some of the social media stuff sounds like a brilliant idea. In my previous life I worked at a university (still do with online teaching) and love the idea of a win-win for both you and the intern. Given the growing demand for social media skills, I think there is real value for the intern as well.

  • Molly says:

    Yay, the post on interns that everyone has been waiting for :) Quick question… when you have interns who are increasing your Twitter present, StumbleUpon, etc. are you giving them your account info and having them use it (for sure I would think for Twitter) – or having them do the work anonymously with their own account (SU could work that way I guess)… I sooooooooooo need a social media intern, but have to wait until I have more to give back, just lack the time for some of this as a single Mom business owner.

  • Great post Mary and it’s got us seriously thinking of adding some bilingual interns from Latin America to Team Taj to help get us on the radar of bilingual travelers down here. We totally agree that tracking effectiveness and rewarding it (or intervening to improve the results for all) is key. Can you elaborate at all about HOW you keep such good/helpful tabs on your interns?

  • We have been thinking about hiring interns as well. Upon doing a bit of research (and calling a few career offices), it appears that interns almost always must be paid (unless you can satisfy a number of rules including showing the work of interns does not have any immediate benefits to your business and may actually impede it etc.). Do you have any tips on how to structure your internship program to work with these regulations? Thanks!

  • Thanks! I just used this blog post as a guide to creating my internship posting and letter. This was an invaluable resource. Mary and Bret strike again!! You are the best.

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