Startup life is stressful. You’re trying to get your business off the ground with a professional edge. A professional edge means you need a professional and a professional means you need to pay. Only problem is, you probably aren’t rolling in money and can’t afford their fees just yet. In the mean time, there are plenty of skilled, almost qualified or newly qualified people out there that are guaranteed to have more experience than you in certain areas. In the working world, they are commonly known as ‘the intern’.

Internships are great ways of getting fresh ideas and useful skills into the office for a relatively low cost and short period of time. Current University students will be scouting for 3 month summer internships and graduates will be on the job hunt. They want commercial experience, a name on their CV and a bit of cash. If they can have fun too, then that’s a bonus. Your dynamic, ‘all hands on deck’ environment is the perfect place for a newbie to get stuck in and for you to save hours of time.

What they can give you

Fast learners

Having just spent their last few years rushing to meet several deadlines with a library as their main resource, interns have a particular knack for picking up new skills pretty quickly. They are good at adapting, but it is just as important that you are a good supervisor/mentor to them.

Tech savvy

As technology evolves, so do the younger generations. They probably have the latest smartphone, understand the newest operating systems and, most importantly, know their way around tech.

Moreover, a lot of interns will be heavily immersed in social media and/or be bloggers. This means they will probably already be aware of surging trends and will have no problems working their way through your social media campaigns or CMS systems. Every connected individual is a content producer, you just need to sift through and find the right ones.

Software skills

Whether you need a developer, a designer or a vlogger, interns will have been actively using powerful software throughout their University experience. Rather than fiddling around with Adobe Photoshop or a bit of coding, bring in an intern to work alongside one of your team members and witness the magic as their knowledge is shared.

Flexibility

As they are interns and they are not fulltime employees, you can choose whether to have them in 3, 4 or 5 days a week. A full working week might be useful for both yourself and the intern, but if you aren’t offering them a decent salary, they may need to work another job too. If they’re interning and working part-time, it might be worth only bringing them in 3 days a week so they don’t sizzle out by the second week of their internship. This is entirely dependent on whether they can support themselves on the wage you’ve offered and their financial situation.

What you can give them

A salary

You can’t assume that they are going to live with their parents. Many students travel to big cities which means they’ll need to be able to cover rent, transport and food. They are cheaper than freelancers, but they are not your slaves. You might not have a lot of money to offer, but equally, they need to be able to survive in the location you’re based.

Portfolio pages

If you’re bringing in an intern for design, content, media or other creative areas, they will want to use the work they do for their portfolios. For creative jobs, the portfolio is one of the most important factors in an application so any commercial work with a real client is invaluable to them.

Genuine experience and guidance

Now earning some money and writing a bit of experience on a CV is ok. What they really want is to finish their internship feeling like they’ve actually learnt something. That they can go into their job with an understanding of a business environment and when they’re writing their next cover letter, they can honestly say that they have experience in the respective sector. They are helping you grow and develop so do the same for them. You should never take on an intern unless you are ready to act as a mentor/supervisor or have someone on your team that can.

Confidence

Your first job in the industry is the scariest. We’ve all been there and we know how nerve-racking it is, but after a few months, they’ll start to feel their confidence rising. To be honest, this is a bonus for you. The more confident they become, the more ideas they’ll bounce around with you. They might even give you the initial plans to an amazing marketing campaign.

When to have an internship

Current students

In the UK, Universities tend to start their year around September/October and finish (dependant on exams) in May/June. Ideally, a 3 month internship for a current student would be from early/mid June to mid/late August.

Alternatively, some students do a year in industry and require a 12 month placement. This is handy if you want to implement them into your strategy and have them see it through. Again, they will want to start in June or July. This gives them time after their exams to relax a bit and take a break. Better to have a well rested intern rather than an exam traumatised wreck.

A word of caution: A first year going into their second year will not be particularly knowledgeable. You would be looking to take on a student that has completed their second year at least.

Master Students and graduates

Some master degrees only finish in January. This is a great time to get some new blood onboard. Plus, graduates that have been unsuccessful straight out of University will still be snooping around for an opportunity.

Where to advertise for an intern

Many job advertising sites, such as the Guardian, have an advanced search option that divides areas like Job Level (graduate, entry level etc), Listing Type (Internship, Graduate Scheme etc) and/or Educational Level (Undergraduate, Postgraduate etc) which allows you to advertise your vacancy to the right audience. There are also specific websites and agencies that will post your internship opportunity. These include: Inspiring Interns, Student Job and Barefoot Student.

Remember, they want something amazing on their CV so they will be just as picky as you. If you can offer them a fully involved, hands-on experience they’ll be knocking on your door, but ultimately, a big name will be more ‘valuable’ to them for their next job. The almost-graduate, fresh-graduate and one/two-year-on-graduates are all young individuals that want to make their mark in the world. A startup might be the perfect place for them to begin.