Hiring An Intern: Insight For Small Business

Growth and strategy

5 October 2021

Internships aren’t just for large organisations. Hiring an intern for your small business can be a great way to gain an extra pair of hands during your busy periods. An internship programme can also be a good opportunity to scope out talented people before you offer them a full-time contract.

AXA’s marketing intern, Olly Buckley, shares some valuable insight for small businesses who are thinking about taking on an intern. He talks about his experiences and how valuable the internship programme was for him. Plus, he sets out practical advice on how small businesses can go about hiring an intern.

Hi, I'm Olly

...and I want to chat to you about internships and why your business should think about hiring an intern.

I’ve recently completed a marketing internship at AXA and decided to write this article to reflect on my experiences and give small business an insight into internships.

Personally, my experience as an intern has been great. I’ve fitted in well with the marketing teams I worked in and gained some real hands-on experience working in a large organisation. I believe this internship has given me skills and experience that will become extremely valuable as I progress through my career.

‘4 in 10 graduate jobs will only be open to applicants with previous internship experience.’ - The Telegraph

Who am I?

Like most interns, I’m currently at university studying for a degree in business and marketing, entering my final year of study before I step foot into the world of work.

I’ve always had a passion for business – specifically marketing – and while I’m progressing with my studies, I thought it would be beneficial to gain experience in my chosen field. I wanted to expand my knowledge and hopefully increase my employability at the same time.

The internship

I started my internship at AXA in July 2021, working with the website and analytics team where I completed my first project of the internship – a competitor analysis and review.

Throughout my time at AXA, I’ve been involved in all sorts of projects and produced important work. After my first month working, I moved to the Acquisitions and Engagement team where I gained experience in various skills such as social media, content and search engine optimisation (SEO). All of this allowed me to gain real insight into the working world of marketing.

‘Four-fifths of students who have had an internship said their professionalism and work ethic were ‘very’ or ‘extremely’ improved by the experience.’ - NACE

Are internships beneficial for the intern?

It is well documented that employees who come out of education with a degree on average earn more than those who don’t. However, as university has become more accessible to the public, the job market has become somewhat crowded with fresh graduates.

This means that graduates might need a stepping stone to be successful at the start of their careers. More and more employers are seeking graduates who also have some form of industry experience, whether that’s a placement year or an internship.

These internships can be extremely useful for the intern themselves, not just to help tick a box on a job application, but to also greatly improve knowledge and improve key skills such as professionalism and work ethic.

Another advantage of an internship is that they can allow the intern to start honing in on a specific area of the industry they wish to focus on. This has been one benefit that I have found most useful on my internship with AXA. Coming into my internship, as previously mentioned, I already had a passion for business and knew that marketing was the area I wanted to focus on.

However, there are lots of different areas to marketing and finding my niche is going to be difficult. I guess finding the area of the industry that you are best suited to is a game of trial and error and comes with experience, experience that I gained through my internship.

Working at AXA made me realise where my strengths and weaknesses lie and has helped me start to focus on certain areas of marketing that I work best in and find the most interesting. This for me happens to be the digital side of marketing and I have since developed a fascination for PPC marketing as well as digital marketing analytics.

What are the benefits of employing an intern?

As a small business owner, you need to identify if an internship programme will be valuable to you. If, for example, you have only recently been established as a business, then maybe hiring an intern isn't the best option for you.

Once you’ve established that you can viably hire an intern, what are some of the benefits they may add to your business? Firstly, internships are a great way for a business to test the waters for a permanent role.

If your business is growing and you are looking to expand your team, an intern is a great way to see if that role is really required without having to pay a potentially high yearly salary for a role that is simply not needed.

Interns are also a great asset to a business when there is extra pressure on the company. For example, if there is a large project that is set to go live within the next few months, an intern may be extremely useful to pick up the extra tasks. They can help out with the daily running of the business while the project takes time from other employees, or they can take some of the strain of the project by helping deliver on auxiliary tasks within the project itself.

I feel as though my experience as an intern was similar to this because, when I joined AXA, they were starting a big marketing campaign for their landlord insurance. I helped by creating documents and collating important data and acted like an extra pair of hands for the campaign.

Another benefit of hiring an intern is that they are often young and fresh into the industry. This means that they can look at business processes with a new perspective. This may mean that the intern you hired over the summer actually ends up solving some big organisational issues.

Interns often challenge ‘the way we’ve always done it’ mentality and bring fresh, new ideas to the company by questioning processes and finding easier and more efficient ways of doing things that managers or other employees might not.

‘Social professional networks are the number one source of quality hires followed by internet job boards and employee referrals.’ - LinkedIn

How do I go about hiring an intern?

So, you’ve decided that hiring an intern is right for your small business. What’s next?

Now you need to find the right interns for you. Hiring an intern is much the same as hiring a permanent employee, so the usual job boards such as Indeed are a good place to start. LinkedIn is also a great place to recruit employees whether they are interns or permanent members of staff.

As a recent study from LinkedIn shows, social professional networks are the number one source of quality hires. However, as internship applicants, more often than not, tend to be students, it is also worth considering student specific job site such as ‘Rate My Placement’ where students will search for placements and internships.

It is advisable that you plan an ‘internship programme’ to ensure both your business and the intern get the most out of the time they have with your business. This may mean organising weekly check-ins with your intern as well as arranging specific tasks for them to work on.

Final thoughts

Whether hiring an intern is right for your business in its current stage or not, I hope I have given you an insight into the world of interns and why they can be so beneficial to your business.

If an internship programme is not what you are looking for, check out our page all about apprentices and what they can do for small business here.

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