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The Unconventional Guide to Work

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Agencies: Can Interns Maximise Your Productivity?

Finding great hires is a problem we know a lot of our customers face. The same issue by different names: “finding quality staff”, “great staff”, “keeping staff”. We hear you – and we can help. If you're struggling to land awesome talent, you've tapped all the usual resources and avenues, I have a question for you: have you considered bringing interns on board?

They can be a great way to plug a gap in the short-term, and if the opportunity pans out, even for the long-term. The intern, eager for work experience, will more than make up for their lack of experience with bundles of enthusiasm (seriously, you can practically see it oozing from their pores!). I started out as an intern myself, at one of the largest strategic design agencies in Australasia, and the six months of experience across the business served as a launchpad for my career.

So, first things first, how do you find the right fit?

  • Get a recommendation; In little old New Zealand we’re lucky that someone always seems to know someone. Ask your contacts if they know anyone looking for some work experience. Referrals generally tend to be successful because they are more reliable and from a trusted source.

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  • Develop an intern programme; If you have an HR person/team they should take ownership of it, or you can lead the way yourself! At Xero for example, we have multiple graduate programmes and internship opportunities for different departments and offices around the world.
  • Visit universities/schools career fairs; Think about how you want to communicate who you are and what do you do. Practice an elevator pitch, take some giveaways and leave behinds and try to get talking to as many people as possible!
  • Use social media to reach out; A lot of brands are posting up job offers on Instagram these days. If you have a good following on your social accounts, this is a great way to spread the word quickly – and often at little or no cost! You can even get a little creative with the ads which is always fun.

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Odettes Eatery advertising their new open position on Instagram

Unfortunately lot of agencies seem to think talent will find them and while this can mostly be true, being proactive is the best approach.

Great. Now you have a few potential candidates lined up. But this is all new territory to you...If you’re not well-prepared and bring a few interns on board with the vague notion of “providing them with work experience” (more because you feel obliged rather than because you want to) the experience is unlikely to be enjoyable for either party.

Here some things you probably shouldn’t do...

  • Give them completely free reign; If you do this, you’ll soon find interns aimlessly wandering around, distracted and bored, gobbling up time and money that would be better spent elsewhere.
  • Have no one responsible for them; Without a designated person to be the main point of contact, the experience can be disorientating for the intern and inconsistent. 
  • Spend all your time trying to train them to use software and programmes; Remember, the tools are only the means to an end!
  • Let them become a distraction for employees; With this influx of fresh young talent in-house, you might find other employees looking for opportunities to socialise more or slack off and let the intern do their workload instead! 

To really maximise the benefit to your firm, you should:

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Examples of some highly creative induction packs at various companies
  • Have an induction! You want to make sure your shiny new intern is productive and engaged. The best way to do this is to introduce them to the company and culture. What makes you different? Are there any quirky staff rituals that should be explained? At the agency I worked for we had a little induction pack full of goodies for newbies and a "rituals" notebook which introduced some of the cool things staff liked to do. Even if it's as simple as what's yummy to eat in the area! See the image above for ideas. You should also use this opportunity to be clear about work expectations, clarify the duration of the internship and be upfront about any remuneration offered.
  • Give them real stuff to do; The more you put interns on actual jobs, the more use they will be to you – and the sooner!
  • Let them shadow you; Putting the intern in a “real world” situation is one of the best ways to help them to learn!
  • Encourage questions; There should be no such thing as a “stupid question”. Invite curiosity and self-discovery.
  • Check-in with them regularly; How are they tracking, what have they learned this week? If you’re taking on multiple interns you could even get them to solidify what they’ve learned by presenting back to the wider team (presentation skills practice – win!)
  • Introduce them to others; Interns don’t have to be your responsibility alone. Depending on what kind of work experience it is, you can ensure the interns have exposure to different departments, jobs within the business and meet a wide variety of people of various ages and at various stages of their careers, including senior management.

Think of this as a great opportunity to interact with the younger generation, tap into a new skillset and get a fresh perspective on the work you're doing and even where you're headed. The younger generation has plenty to offer and are just brimming for an opportunity to show this!

Have you had interns come into your agency before? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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