When was the last time you hired a Black intern? If your company or organization has had an internship program for any period of time, and you can’t recall the last time you had a Black or Latinx intern, that is a problem. Just how diverse is your internship program?
After leading a team that placed 400+ diverse interns at major companies across the United States, I know what it looks like when companies invest the energy, resources and the money to expand and attract a more diverse intern pool. When a company or organization decides that they want change, they will take action to get the desired results.
It is time to step out of your comfort zone and find ways to connect with the wealth of talent within communities that have historically been overlooked. Hiring one Black or Brown intern out of many isn’t the solution. Your aim should be to create a company or even department that reflects the colorful, diverse world we live in.
If your internship class pictures look like the ones on the left, you got work to do.
Hiring the same interns yields the same type of full-time staff
Students who complete internships are more likely to get job offers. Frequently companies turn to their previous or current intern pools to fill open positions. Internships have essentially become eight-week job interviews. If the intern pool you turn to is 99% white, then you are going to keep having trouble trying to diversify your full-time staff.
According to the NACE 2019 Internship & Co-op Survey Report 56.1 percent of interns in the Class of 2018 were offered full-time positions. If you keep going back to the same pool of candidates, you won’t see a change.
Source: 2019 Internship & Co-op Survey Report, National Association of Colleges and Employers
Your internship program isn’t just about growing your staff. These program increase your overall productivity by bringing in students who can make meaningful contributions. You can expose your staff to new perspectives, learn the new treands of Generation Z, and showcase yourself as a leader in your community who fosters growth in the overall workforce.
The road to diversity must be traveled from multiple directions. From the top, with an increase in Black executives in the c-suite and on down to the hiring of interns who can work their way up. Hiring interns and assisting them in their professional growth benefits a company in so many ways. When you bring in people from different backgrounds and cultures, they bring with them diverse prospectives that can enhance your bottom line.
When you invest in their growth, interns can flourish into leaders than can contribute massively to your company or even an entire industry.
Oprah Winfrey started as an intern at WLAC-TV, a CBS affiliate in Nashville, TN. The station hired her as a full-time anchor-reporter. She became the first African-American female news anchor.
Rosalyn Duran spent a summer as an affliate sales intern with ESPN. She was hired right after graduation. She is currently serving as Senior VP of Operations, Disney Springs, ESPN Wide World of Sports and Water Parks for the Walt Disney World Resort. Prior to her recent role, she was Senior VP, College Networks.
Ursula Burns, former Xerox CEO, and the first African-American woman to lead an S&P 500 company. Her career with Xerox started as a mechanical engineering intern.
Brandon Thompson began his career in 2003 as an intern at Nashville Superspeedway, a role he applied for through the NASCAR Diversity Internship Program. Recently promoted from Managing Director of the NASCAR Touring Series he is now Vice President, Diversity and Inclusion.
The reality is, most companies and organizations look in the same places over and over again to fill their openings. Sadly, there are fewer women and Black CEO’s now then when Ursula left Xerox in 2016. There are currently only four black CEO’s of Fortune 500 companies – and they are all men. The issues, from top to bottom run deep, and the solutions must be from all levels too.
Expand Your Circle
Let’s not forget that many roles never even get posted. In reality, networking is how a lot of people go from intern to employee, company to company, promotion to promotion.
Typical conversations go like this: “I have a role, you know anyone that can XYZ, or might be interested in 123?”
You look through your contacts, think about the people you know and make the connection. Well, when you have a more diverse network, you will also get more diverse referrals. Get to know more Black people in your field. You can do that at professional conferences, trade shows, and through LinkedIn.
As your circle expands and you begin to ask a wider cross section of people “if they know anyone” for internships or job openings, you’ll see the demographic change in the people you find.
Creative On Campus Recruitment
Do you visit any Historically Black College or Universities (HBCU) as a part of your on campus recruitment strategy? “Today, there are 107 HBCUs with more than 228,000 students enrolled” (source). That is a lot of talent waiting to be tapped.
If you can’t make the trip to your nearest HBCU, you can always call and connect with the career services department or even an academic department to send out an email announcement for you, coordinate an online recruitment event or solicit resumes.
Outside of recruiting at an HBCU, you can also of course find Black and Brown students at all colleges across the country. Start by reaching out to the minority groups on campus. There are usually a number of groups that support minority students on campus like the Black Student Union, ALANA (African, Latino, Asian and Native American) groups, and Black fraternities and sororities.
Lastly, connect with professionals in on-campus and community organizations. When you need writers, check with the local National Association of Black Journalists in your community and at the local college campus. For your next engineering internship, post the position with the National Society of Black Engineers and reach out to the campus group. Do the work, do the outreach.
Partner with Professional Organizations
As I mentioned, I worked for a non-profit organization that connects talented minority students to companies for internships and entry to mid-level hires. The following is a list of non-profit organizations that work with company partners who want to increase diversity. These organizations touch a variety of industries.
If your industry isn’t covered, you can also check with local organizations to see what type of partnership you can create on your own. Be prepared, all of these organizations expect you to PAY your interns, rightfully so.
When you make the decision that you want to see change in your intern diversity, then you should share that with your team. Let them know that you are committed to creating opportunities, opening your eyes to finding talent in new places and about your desire to enhance your company or department by bringing in voices with different points of view.
This isn’t about checking a diversity box, it is about a commitment to a cultural shift.
Also, do not hire a Black intern then bring them into a toxic and hostile environment. Check your environment. Check your culture. Check the level of racism. Check the microaggressions (everyday, subtle, intentional — and oftentimes unintentional — interactions or behaviors that communicate some sort of bias toward historically marginalized groups).
If your environment is toxic and you don’t need an intern, you need a culture check. If #BlackLivesMatter makes people uncomfortable, you have work to do.
You might figure out that you need some diversity training and some tough conversations. You are not asking your team to get on board with “just” hiring Black interns, you are asking them to get on board with diversity, equality, openness, inclusion and change. Everything won’t be perfect, no one expects utopia tomorrow, but you lead by example. Take the time and responsibility to educate yourself, create and provide resources and educate others along the way.
Promote the Black people who keep getting overlooked. Hire talented Black interns who will impact your company or organization. At the same time, hire Black people for those permanent roles you have been trying to fill. Look for Black vendors when you have work to be done. We don’t want these opportunities because we are Black, we deserve them because we are more than qualified and ready.
Interns no longer exclusively make copies and take the team’s coffee order, they are valuable resources for business. Interns are contributing their level of insight, social media savvy and knowledge of Generation Z. Picking the right candidate to join your team helps everyone succeed. Interns get to build their skills while experiencing a fast-paced work environment. From your perspective, you can hire quality applicants at a reasonable cost and if you picked right, identify a future full-time employee.
However, keep in mind that interns are still students or recent graduates so you need to manage your expectations. Employers need to assist them in their role so that the company succeeds, too. Don’t hire an intern when in reality you need a professional with four years of experience. Be honest with yourself about your needs and what type of exprience you can provide. If you hire with that in mind, everyone will be set up to be successful.
Here are four things you can do to help your interns succeed.
As tempting as asking them to work for free is, it’s often counterproductive. Employers that are only attracting mediocore or substandard candidates are not getting the best of the best because they don’t pay enough. When hourly rates are too low, it is hard to locate quality interns. Students and post-grads have student loan debt, credit card debt and other creditors to appease. Let’s not forget how the cost of college continues to increase. Expecting interns to work for free contributes to an unfair situation where only those with financial means end up with the opportunity.
Resist being cheap. How much you’re willing to pay is a personal and business decision, but you would be smart to set your rates to entice the cream of the crop to the company.
Everybody in the office should have performance and work related goals. Sadly, interns are generally overlooked when it comes to this. Once you give them a job, they are part of the staff, which means they require goals. Developing goals or targets does two things. Firstly, it proves that you’re invested in their future and want them to progress. If you show that you are invested in their success, they will be invested in yours. Secondly, it can ensure that everyone is on the same page about what is expected. Times will get tough, and when they do, it’s comforting to have a plan to understand what they are doing wrong and how to rectify the situation.
An experienced and skilled employee can take months to transition to new processes, especially if they include pointless red tape and bureaucracy. For interns, the job’s politics only adds to the stress and makes them more likely to make mistakes.
From an administrative perspective, tools like, https://www.templafy.com/business-document-templates/ can help streamline things. Rather than asking them to jump through hoops, you can use readymade document templates to ensure their tasks are more accessible. Also, this prevents them from asking you questions whenever they are stuck or need permission to do their job. Clear and consistent communication and instructions puts everyone on the same page and saves time which in turn, saves money.
Any number of unforeseen problems can pop up out of the blue. Interns are often inexperienced and shy and relucant to approach managers as their issues don’t appear significant. As a result, they may continue to make errors and retreat into their shell. Checking in with your interns provides them with the opportunity to speak out and raise questions confidentially.
Schedule time to meet with your interns regularly. These meetings are a chance for them to ask questions, get feedback, learn and build confidence. Here are four questions you should ask weekly if you need inspiration for those chats.
Hire them pay them well, communicate and lead. Your interns success is your success.
National Intern Day is the first celebration of its kind, a day designed to highlight the awesome things that interns like you do every day. “Internships are a critical step on the path to landing a job after graduation,” says Liz Wessel, the CEO and co-founder of WayUp. As a company that’s helped millions of people find internships, we’ve seen firsthand how impactful those experiences can be and we want to celebrate interns who are making a difference.
Spotlight Amazing Internship Opportunities
In addition to spotlighting amazing interns, National Intern Day also puts the focus on employers who are creating awesome internship opportunities and programs. So while you’re submitting a nomination for yourself, go ahead and submit one for your internship program manager and company too! This will help them get the recognition they deserve while also giving other interns the opportunity to discover great internship programs.
You’ve posted your add and now you are anxiously waiting for the resumes to roll in. Problem is, you can’t seem to find a qualifed intern. The resumes you have receieved don’t line up with the position description or, you aren’t getting any resumes at all.
What’s the deal? You are trying to give a young person an opportunity to learn your business and gain some real experience, but can’t seem to find the right person for the job.
Well, it is possible that you are the problem.
Often employers embark on the journey to find an intern without a firm understanding of what they really need in an intern, where to find internship candidates and what attracts good internship candidates. You might be guilty of one or all of these things. Take a step back and evaluate a few things about your internship opening and see how your program measures up in your quest to find a qualified intern.
Don’t be cheap, pay your interns
Nobody wants to work for free. Maybe 20 years ago unpaid internships were popular, but 20 years ago college didn’t cost on average almost $30,000 a year for an in-state public college. The average private school costs about $50,000 per year (source). With those types of bills looming and many college students needing to contribute heavily to pay for college, working for free just isn’t always feasible. If your internship doesn’t pay, you might miss out on quality candidates based on the fact that they can’t afford to work for you.
Unpaid programs can be biased towards those that can afford to work for free. Your talent and applicant pool will automatically decrease. If you want to compete for the best talent, then you need to find a way to pay your interns.
In addition to limiting your internship pool, unpaid internships are also potentially against the law. There are certain criteria you must meet as an employer in order to offer an unpaid internship.
You need an employee not an intern
Internships for undergraduate students that require two years of professional work experience are just insane and unfair. Internships are about gaining experience, about learning, about teaching. To want an intern with professional level credentials is just not reasonable, especially if you are not paying. Yes, you need your intern to have some skills and ability to contribute, but measure your needs and wants versus the reality of what an intern can bring.
If your internships is designed specficially for a recent graduate or graduate student, be specific with what you are looking for. Don’t be surprised, however, if candidates with stronger credentials are looking for some type of compensation.
Searching for Qualified Interns
Where you looking for interns? Have you posted to indeed.com and the other major job boards. That’s a good start, but when searching for interns go to where the interns are. There are websites and job boards for companies specifically looking for interns. Internship job boards like wayup.com, youtern.com and internships.com provide more exposure to your target audience. LinkedIn is also a no brianer which gives you the chance to review the background of your candidates. If you have your own website, make sure you post it there as well.
Social media sites including Instagram, SnapChat, Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook can’t be ignored when looking for college students. Go where your market is.
Locally, check with the colleges and universities in your own backyard. Start with career services offices and then go to the appropraite academic departments.
Does your internship job descprition make you want to work there? If the opportunity you are offering doesn’t sound interesting to you, then it may not be appealing to anyone else either. Making copies and getting coffee is not the “real world” experience students are looking for. In addition to the qualifications for the role, your ad needs to communicate what the intern will learn, the benefits, responsibilities and skills they will gain.
Many businesses, large, small or solo operations, toy with the idea of starting an internship program. Make no mistake, starting and running a successful internship program is a big committment, but one that pays you back in many ways (not all financial). If you have been mulling it over and can’t decide, here are five reasons to start an internship program now.
1. Create a pipeline of future employees
When you are ready to add full or part-time staff, what better source of candidates than the people you already know? More frequently companies are turning to their previous or current intern pools first to fill open positions. In fact, according to the 2016 NACE Survey, employers offering interns jobs is at a 13-year high, “the average offer rate is 72.7 percent.”
As senior manager of a national internship program for nearly five years, I saw this trend increase year after year. The number of my graduating seniors receiving job offers before graduation continued to climb. There are not always openings at the end of the internship period, but many companies would offer previous interns jobs 1-2 years later when a job did become available.
2. Increase new employee retention
An internship is like a really long job interview. For 8-10 weeks or longer you have the opportunity to learn and observe if someone will be a fit for your team. For an intern, working at a company for a few weeks exposes them to the culture, management and work flow so they can determine if it is a fit for them as well.
One of the coolest calls I recieved as program manager was from a college recruiter at one of my host companies. Imagine my surpise when she told me one of my interns was being offered a job – 8 months before his graduation. He had impressed them so much over the summer that they knew they wanted to bring him on as soon as possible.
“His plans materialized during the fall of his senior year when he received a call from DIRECTV offering him a position as a Production Operator. He gladly accepted his first job before he even got halfway through his senior year….. Eric didn’t have to go through additional multiple interviews to get the job. The 12-week internship he completed was enough for DIRECTV to know they wanted him on their team.”
Internships can be paid or unpaid. There are however, many rules and regulations regarding the criteria for hiring paid vs unpaid interns. Even with a paid internship program, the compensation for interns is generally less than the cost of hiring a full or part-time employee. Affordable help should not be your main motivation.
The average private college tuition is just below $35,000 and the average public college tuition is right around $10,000. Those prices don’t include room and board. So, before you ask a young person to forgo a paying job for a free internship, be aware that while they would love the experience, they simply can’t afford to work for free.
Even when working at a small non-profit, we paid our interns. The help they provided in assisting us in meeting our mission was useful and very appreciated. I worked to integrate them into our team and in addition to a paycheck, provided learning opportunities they would not get in class. In turn, we received the assistance we needed during certain times a year, without the cost of onboarding new employees.
Interns are largely super motivated new members of your team. For an intern, the opportunity to take what they have been learning in a classroom and see how it applies to real life is what they have been waiting for. Also, they are trying to put their best foot forward in hopes of getting hired. Motivated new team members can bring a shot of energy and enthusiasm that can reinvigorate others around them.
Working in higher education and career placement for nearly 20 years keeps me young. While traditional interns have much to learn, their is something to be said for their youth and energy.
5. Fresh perspective
When your brainstorming sessions are filled only with people who have been with the company for years, a fresh new perspective from an outsider might provide the spark for some new ideas. Current college students and recent graduates are aware of new trends, new music and may possess social media skills you need to reach a different generation. Hiring interns can bring fresh ideas and new approaches to old problems.
“This is not your coffee getting, paper copying, learn nothing type of deal. It was actually an intern who first proposed the idea of using text as the main platform and interns contributed greatly to the current website design.” – Kelly Peeler, NextGen Vest
Creating an internship program is about leading, teaching end empowering young people with knowledge, skills and training for future success. If you are not ready to lead and teach, you might not be ready to put together a winning internship program.
6. Giving back and being a mentor (bonus reason)
The best internship programs understand that the bigger picture is about helping develop future talent whether or not they will be working for you. Being a mentor, serving young people who are eager for success and giving students a look at the reality of what it is to work in their professions should be high on your list of reasons to start an internship program.
Great internship programs are about creating an experience that will benefit the intern and the business.
If you are ready to take the steps and get started with your own internship program, download my free guide,10 steps to launching an internship program. Don’t keep waiting, make a move in the right direction and start planning your program now.
Do you believe that myth, “If I don’t attend a top school, I won’t get a good job when I graduate”?
(You can see the article I wrote debunking this myth here.)
The graph at the bottom of today’s post is going to make you feel instantly better.
For every student who fears that their college isn’t good enough, here’s great news. Today I’m featuring excerpts from a brilliant article written by Derek Thompson in The Atlantic.
Thompson boldly tackles the question:
“Do employers really care what college you went to? What do they actually look at when deciding whether or not to hire a new college grad?”
When I was 17, if you asked me how I planned on getting a job in the future, I think I would have said: Get into the right college. When I was 18, if you asked me the same question, I would have said: Get into the right classes. When I was 19: Get good grades.
But . . .
When employers recently named the most important elements in hiring a recent graduate, college reputation, GPA, and courses finished at the bottom of the list.
At the top, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education, were experiences outside of academics:Internships, jobs, volunteering, and (relevant) extracurriculars.
“When employers do hire from college, the evidence suggests that academic skills are not their primary concern,” says Peter Cappelli, a Wharton professor and the author of a new paper on job skills.
Work experience is the #1 thing employers look for in a new hire candidate.
“Work experience,” Cappelli says, “is the crucial attribute that employers want even for students who have yet to work full-time.”
Here’s the good news to pack up and take home:
Thompson says: “When you drill down into how a college’s reputation affects hiring, employers’ mean rating of ‘regionally known’ colleges and universities was practically indistinguishable from their rating for elite schools.”
To dive a little deeper into this subject, read my article on why paid internships are the best internships: You can read that article here.
Then read my very popular article on “Expensive Education Leads to A Happier Life. True or False? (The Answer Might Surprise You.)” You can find that article here.
My suggestion to upcoming grads and college students?
Don’t believe the hype that says: “If you don’t get into a good college, you won’t be able to get a good job when you graduate.” Instead: “Plan ahead and do 2- 3 paid internships during college – it’s one of the best ways to set yourself up to get a great job when you graduate!”