Startup interns are great! They can help you kick-start your business while saving a lot of money. But, many founders forget it’s a huge responsibility to hire people. I meet many startup founders that just hire startup interns and then leave them hanging for 3 months. This is not OK! Make sure you are ready to receive your interns and guide them properly. We at accessART have been learning by doing and definitely made some mistakes. That’s why I wrote this blog based on first-hand and other people’s experiences. Enjoy the read 🙂
This is a “sister” post of a blog for people thinking about doing a startup internship.
Should you hire startup interns?
Startups need to make sure they are ready to receive interns. Otherwise, you will both have a terrible experience and it may cost more than what you get out of it. So don’t take the decision lightly 🙂 I created this “checklist” to point out some important things to consider before hiring startup interns.
For people looking for a startup internship, ask about these factors to make sure the startup you apply for is actually ready for you 🙂 .
Time to mentor Startup Interns
It’s not always easy for a startup founder to make time to mentor an intern. There are never enough hours in a day to finish all your own tasks, let alone teach, mentor and guide an intern. But, startup interns are there to learn, not to provide free labour. Founders need to be able to make the time to properly guide an intern. Is your startup scaling and are you travelling all the time? Make sure you have someone to guide your interns. Are you fully focused on getting funding? Maybe it’s not quite the right time to hire interns.
How we try to do this: At the beginning of the week we try to make a plan with the interns and they identify any issues they may have. All tasks are listed in our management system DaPulse where also updates can be posted. I also try to have a (formal or informal) meeting with the interns every week. Once in a while, we also hold “brown-bag” sessions where one of the founders or interns explains what they are working on and to share knowledge. I guess the most important is to keep communicating and identify when someone is stuck with their tasks.
If you want to attract interns, you have to give them a place to work. Especially if they come from abroad or travel from one city to the other, you have to provide them with a place to work with decent internet and basic facilities as coffee and tea. If you are a founder you will get away with working from home or free co-working spaces, but it’s not OK to drag your interns through the city without giving them a place to work (yes, I have seen this happening) or claiming complete tables in free co-working spaces (yes, I have seen this happening too).
How we try to do this: It may sound easy to find an office, but as I described in this blog about finding your first startup office, it’s not! On top of that it will absorb a large part of your budget! So decide what’s worth more: the work that the intern can deliver, or the money you save without an office.
Clear projects / assignments
Startup internships should partly consist of operational, routine tasks and partly of projects. In the routine tasks the interns can learn to set up efficient processes, measuring results and making incremental improvements. They can prove they are reliable and that they know how to execute work properly. On the other hand, there is nothing more valuable for an intern to learn than to set up projects independently.
How we try to do this: At accessART we try to stick to a 60% routine and 40% project mix. In our online marketing internship the 60% consists of social media posts, writing blogs, creating newsletters and building our community. These activities come back every week. So, we require high quality performance and innovative thinking from the interns to make small efficiency improvements in these processes. The 40% consists of small (2-4 week) projects. Think drafting a review strategy, setting up a link building strategy or creating an artist activation kit. The intern learns how to plan, research, design and execute a project and most important of all, involve the right stakeholders. After the plan and research phase the interns give a presentation about their findings and plan. Then, they get a GO/NO-GO for their project.
There is nothing worse than an internship in which the startup intern has to wonder every day if he/she will have something to do that day. The reason why this often happens, is that there is no clear agreement on what are the deliverables of the internship. This happens both in startups and in large corporates. The intern has not thought about what he or she wants to learn. The company has not properly thought through what they want from the intern. This will result in boredom by the intern and frustration by the founder. The internship will fail for both sides because no one is satisfied with the outputs from the internship.
How do we do this: every intern that joins accessART is required to fill out an objectives form. I learned this from my time in consulting and see this as a crucial thing to guide the intern’s daily activities. At the start of the internship, we set 3 business objectives and 1 personal objective. This serves as a contract between the founder and the intern. The founder’s job is to make it clear what he/she expects from the intern. The intern has to think about what he/she wants to achieve during the intership. This proces also ensures that at the end of the internship, it’s very easy to evaluate the performance of the intern. Bonus: the intern will learn how to do this and discuss his/her performance in future jobs.
Where to find startup interns?
We have been highly succesful in attracting interns from a variety of countries through angel.co . It’s free and internationally oriented. If you’re specifically looking for Dutch startups, reaching out to Universities to post on their job boards works ok.
I hope you enjoyed this post and maybe it will help you in your startup journey 🙂