When I was still running our business and leading a team, people who were working in other regions would often ask, “How come you always seem to have so many people working with you?” The answer – interns. Throughout the years we had a steady stream of young people coming through our business and city. And often it was these interns who came back long-term. So, what are the keys to getting interns to return, and seeing them bring a blessing and not a burden to you and your work? There are two.
- Understand that an internship is first and foremost a training program. When we invest in people, they see it and they feel it. It’s true, training and mentoring a college intern requires time and effort; much more time and effort than someone with work experience. It is likely you will need to invest time up front to help the intern develop the skills that are useful in your business. In mentoring them you’ll need to anticipate the questions they will encounter and it’s wise to have someone who is assigned to oversee their work. I found on the average it would require an hour of my time each morning to keep the intern working and productive throughout the day.
Interns need guidance. In the beginning the first one or two interns required possibly 2 to 4 hours of guidance a day. Yes, that’s a big investment. But once I developed a structured training and evaluation process and trained others to oversee them, the amount of time involved training and supervising subsequent interns, became less and less, because I used that same process for every intern after that. In addition to their job, the process included where they lived, the Bible passages they studied, plus how to build relationships so as to learn some language and the culture outside of work. Making these inroads encouraged each intern to see there’s a future for them with our business and among our people group. It made them feel a part of the business and our community. And most importantly the intern experienced our commitment to investing in their life and work.
- Secondly, every one of us has a project or three that we’d like to get done, but just don’t have the time to do it. The project or job we’d like done may require only 20-30 hours of our time, but with all that’s happening who has that time to spare? Interns are perfect for such projects. Yes, they’ll take an hour a day of your time; and yes it will take them twice or even three times as long to do the job than if you did it yourself. However, think about this. If it would take you 20 hours to do the project and an intern 40 hours, it may seem like a bad investment of your time. Yet if you invest one hour each work day with an intern over the course of two weeks, that’s 10 hours. If the intern is working on the project 6 hours a day during that time, that’s roughly 60 hours. Sixty hours is more than enough time for the intern to complete the project, saving you 10 hours. In addition, the intern gains valuable work experience, is exposed to B4T, forms a bond with you and your staff, and returns home having an honest sense of accomplishing something of value to the business.
Interns need well defined goals and there should be measurable outcomes for the intern to complete, which you will learn to do as you work with the intern. If you need help with setting up a process for interns, OPEN has people who are available to assist you.
For example, here’s a recent email from JP working in SE Asia.
I am just now completing a Nexus B4T internship with Steven who I met at the B4TExpo. Steven will now head back to the U.S. to work with us as a sales person. He was with us about seven weeks and it has been beyond what I was praying for! Amazing how deep he was able to connect with our team and also the support he has been to our business during his time here. I talked to my wife yesterday about how now I realize the impact (spiritual and business) a high-quality intern can have. I wanted to pass along this positive input!
Needing some help? Consider trying an intern this summer.
PATRICK LAI and his family have worked in SE Asia for other 37 years. His experience in doing business with Jesus has brought him to understand the meaning of work and worship in the marketplace. He started 14 businesses in four countries, six of which are still operating. Patrick and his wife, May, mentor and coach businesspeople working where there are few or no Christians. Check out Patrick’s latest book, Workship, now available in paperback and e-book.