I recently added an intern to my business – well, three interns actually.
When I told people I was advertising to hire an intern, most people automatically went “Oh wow, that’s great – free or cheap labour!”
To me, this is not what having an intern is about. And I wondered how many people are missing the possibility of what having an intern could really create in business, and the world in general.
I invited Steven and Chutisa Bowman, who had given me the idea about getting an intern when they had hired two themselves, and Rebecca Hulse, the talented woman who is working closely with our interns, onto my radio show and discuss what else is possible with interns if you are willing to have a different point of view.
Steve said to me “The whole purpose of having an intern is that they learn stuff that they wouldn’t otherwise get to learn in a business or work environment. It’s definitely not about cheap labour, in fact we pay our interns because that’s the way we wanted to do it. You don’t have to, but that’s what we chose to do. Internships is where you are beginning to educate someone, so that they can go away a better person with knowledge, even if they don’t choose to say with you. What can you contribute to an intern, and what can an intern contribute to your business?”
So, how is this approach different from the ‘cheap labour’ point of view, and how would you implement it?
You can listen to the radio show replay for all the juicy detail, but here are three points to get you started:
1. Create clarity without prescribing how things must be done. Chutisa says “It is crucial to know what you would like to have, you have to be able to give them guidance of what we would like them to achieve by the end of the month. If you don’t have that for them, you can get a bit lost.” Steven adds “How they did it was what makes them special as interns. What needed to be done was what we put down on paper.”
2. Empower your interns, and be willing to deliver what they need, too. “Out interns had never actually had someone trust them that much to say “do whatever would work for you” and deliver what is required to be delivered”, says Chutisa, “and we ask them “are we giving you enough love?” and “what else would you like from us or require from us?”” .” Being available but not demanding to be answered to creates the space for your interns to explore their capacities to create – and it doesn’t mean not saying ‘no’ when you need to say it, either!
3. You can’t make it work if you are trying to be a control freak. “Control is such a lie,” says Steven, “it doesn’t exist. The only thing you can control is yourself, and that’s hard!” Instead, what if you would be an inspiration for people to follow? Create your relationship with the intern from contribution – ask what contribution can they be, and what contribution can they be to you?
If you are interested in being a benevolent leader in your life and business, you have to see that an internship is a two-way street. If you are willing to be a catalyst for change in your own life, you can have interns and invite them to be a catalyst for change in the world also. What if by working with an intern you were contributing to the greater good of the business world by what they get out of it and take forward with them in the future, no matter where they go?