The Secrets To Hiring An Amazing Intern


Some people have great experiences with interns in their business, and others don’t. I am happy to say I have had lots of great experiences. Over the years, we have had between 2-8 interns per year come through our doors, year on year. Over a 10 year period, more than 30 interns have worked with us, and 7 of those became full-time employees.

Where do you get these interns from?

We’ve never advertised for an intern, as our industry (graphic design, marketing, and web design) tends to attract them. It also helps that we have an office in a central location in London.

We’ve had interns come directly from universities under specific programmes where they must gain real-life work experience at a company to graduate. Others have come through word of mouth, because they were the son or daughter of one of our clients or contacts. I taught a class at a university and one of the students came for an internship with us – and then we hired her full-time.

We've had so many fantastic interns over the years and we make sure to document each of their stories on our blog. And as more have come through our doors, more have come to us from referrals as people see that we are an intern friendly company.

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We have been lucky in this way, as most interns have come to us and we haven't had to go looking for them. But if you want to be proactive, there are some national and international internship programmes you can research in your area to find interns.

Fundamental rules:

You shouldn’t see an intern as a way to get someone working for free. I mention this because I’ve seen it happen a lot. It must be a win-win situation for both parties. They are there to gain experience and learn. You can hire an intern on a short-term basis and hope they will be able to help with the work you have. But boundaries must be set to make this happen.

Take time to review their work and provide constructive feedback. It does take time, but it’s unfair to expect them to come in and do a bunch of work without any feedback. It’s this feedback that is most valuable – telling them what they did well or how they can change things to make it right.

Generally, they will take longer to do tasks.They have chosen an internship as it gives them work experience – so you need to give them tasks where you can be lenient about deadlines. This gives them a bit more time to figure things out without too much stress. It’s still good to set deadlines for each task to give them structure and parameters, but I wouldn’t risk tasking them with work that, if not delivered on time or to a certain standard, might jeopardize a client relationship.

Quality varies. However wonderful your setup is and high your hopes are when you first meet someone, you will still get some people who pass through and take up more time than expected with very little benefit to you. This can happen, and you should just make the best of it.

Over the years I have developed certain tools that simplify the process to give interns a fulfilling experience, so they can learn as much as possible in a short space of time, and so it doesn’t take up too much of my time. My tools give interns structure and clear instructions which means they can focus on the work at hand and avoid feeling anxious or bored.

Pre-qualify: Create a prequalifying one-page sheet to send to prospective interns, outlining the type of tasks, soft skills, and attitudes expected from people who come for an internship.

How much to pay them? For my company, the simplest scenario is hiring interns who need to gain mandatory experience as part of their degree. They don’t need to be paid but they do want a company that can give them real work experience – not data entry or photocopying! This makes the decision much easier, and if we’re not paying them, there is a much lower barrier to entry. Alternatively, if someone comes along who has skills we need for a specific project, we would reimburse their lunch and travel expenses and pay, at the very least, the amount required by law.

What type of work? Include a comprehensive list of the types of tasks you can ask your interns to do. This shows them they will be doing real work that they can practice and learn from. At my company this includes things like entering text into WordPress, picture sourcing, resizing images, organizing photos, writing captions and blog posts, drafting instructions for our coders, word count documents, how to guides, research for social media – anything that can be done behind the scenes and then checked by us.

Trello: This tool has been invaluable for me to pre-draft and assign tasks, store useful reference information, give feedback and track progress. I even use Trello if someone is coming for just a week. Setting up a new Trello board for the intern takes just a few minutes. It’s very intuitive and they are usually very impressed with the tool. I set up the card lists under the headings: To Do, Doing, For Team to Check, Done and References, and I put a few “day one” and “week one” tasks into the “To Do” list.

Day one tasks: On their first day, have a few tasks already pre-written so they can see there is plenty to do. The worst thing is for them to be bored.

Add some tea: I always include “making tea for the team” in my pre-qualifying sheet and the “your first day” one pager. We’re a small company so this will never be a huge task, but if the intern does the tea round on a regular basis, it forces them to speak to others. It may only take a few minutes of their time each day, but it creates a positive response and means they have a chance to do something nice that’s appreciated by others.

Feedback process: Create a working process for them to have their work reviewed. For us, Trello is invaluable. Once a task is ready to be checked, they can move it to the “For Team to Check” list and tag whoever assigned them with an update and questions. They can then move to the next task – ideally, you will have 3-4 pre-loaded tasks, so you know they’ll stay occupied if they finish something and you don’t have time to check it right away.

The first tasks are usually simple things like “go through Trello and add a picture to each card”, “fill out your intake form” and “tag me when you are done with this task”.

Adapt your tasks:

When you have people, who come for internships and work experience, it’s a chance for you both to “try before you buy”. As a business owner, it’s a low-risk way for someone to learn how things run within your business and see how well they do, how quickly they learn, how soon they can be genuinely useful – and at some point, if you’re lucky, how soon they’ll become someone you’d hire. I’ve had 7 of my interns become full-time paid staff in my organization over the years, but many more haven’t made the cut.

When you have people, who come for internships and work experience, it’s a chance for you both to “try before you buy”. Photo Courtesy of NACE

3 possible outcomes

There comes a time-anything from two weeks to six months depending on their situation and the agreement you have, that you need to either let your intern go or possibly bring them closer.

If they’ve really impressed you: With those who are head and shoulders above the rest, be sure to let them know you are very happy with their work. Once the internship is over, you may be able to ask them to continue doing some freelance work until you can hire them full-time (if you feel it’s right).

If they were fine but didn’t blow you away: Hopefully, after their time as an intern, you both found the experience rewarding. They may likely ask you for a reference, and in these cases, I just try and focus on the most positive things – there’s no need to be overly critical and shatter their dreams, even if you wouldn’t enthusiastically hire them.

Complete waste of time: It happens. Sometimes, however well someone does in an interview or seems when they first come along, their skills and attitude can be completely off the mark. I have had two occasions where I had to cut internships short because of these things. But, it hasn’t made me any less enthusiastic about the interns who come along – for the most part, it’s been a fantastic experience.

With this advice in place, you will be sure to attract and inspire amazing interns, who could become future employees, advocates, supporters, and even friends. Your amazing future interns could in one or more of these ways, make a lasting and positive impact on your business.

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Patriarchy Stress Disorder is A Real Thing and this Psychologist Is Helping Women Overcome It

For decades, women have been unknowingly suffering from PSD and intergenerational trauma, but now Dr. Valerie Rein wants women to reclaim their power through mind, body and healing tools.

As women, no matter how many accomplishments we have or how successful we look on the outside, we all occasionally hear that nagging internal voice telling us to do more. We criticize ourselves more than anyone else and then throw ourselves into the never-ending cycle of self-care, all in effort to save ourselves from crashing into this invisible internal wall. According to psychologist, entrepreneur and author, Dr. Valerie Rein, these feelings are not your fault and there is nothing wrong with you— but chances are you definitely suffering from Patriarchy Stress Disorder.

Patriarchy Stress Disorder (PSD) is defined as the collective inherited trauma of oppression that forms an invisible inner barrier to women's happiness and fulfillment. The term was coined by Rein who discovered a missing link between trauma and the effects that patriarchal power structures have had on certain groups of people all throughout history up until the present day. Her life experience, in addition to research, have led Rein to develop a deeper understanding of the ways in which men and women are experiencing symptoms of trauma and stress that have been genetically passed down from previously oppressed generations.

What makes the discovery of this disorder significant is that it provides women with an answer to the stresses and trauma we feel but cannot explain or overcome. After being admitted to the ER with stroke-like symptoms one afternoon, when Rein noticed the left side of her body and face going numb, she was baffled to learn from her doctors that the results of her tests revealed that her stroke-like symptoms were caused by stress. Rein was then left to figure out what exactly she did for her clients in order for them to be able to step into the fullness of themselves that she was unable to do for herself. "What started seeping through the tears was the realization that I checked all the boxes that society told me I needed to feel happy and fulfilled, but I didn't feel happy or fulfilled and I didn't feel unhappy either. I didn't feel much of anything at all, not even stress," she stated.

Photo Courtesy of Dr. Valerie Rein

This raised the question for Rein as to what sort of hidden traumas women are suppressing without having any awareness of its presence. In her evaluation of her healing methodology, Rein realized that she was using mind, body and trauma healing tools with her clients because, while they had never experienced a traumatic event, they were showing the tell-tale symptoms of trauma which are described as a disconnect from parts of ourselves, body and emotions. In addition to her personal evaluation, research at the time had revealed that traumatic experiences are, in fact, passed down genetically throughout generations. This was Rein's lightbulb moment. The answer to a very real problem that she, and all women, have been experiencing is intergenerational trauma as a result of oppression formed under the patriarchy.

Although Rein's discovery would undoubtably change the way women experience and understand stress, it was crucial that she first broaden the definition of trauma not with the intention of catering to PSD, but to better identify the ways in which trauma presents itself in the current generation. When studying psychology from the books and diagnostic manuals written exclusively by white men, trauma was narrowly defined as a life-threatening experience. By that definition, not many people fit the bill despite showing trauma-like symptoms such as disconnections from parts of their body, emotions and self-expression. However, as the field of psychology has expanded, more voices have been joining the conversations and expanding the definition of trauma based on their lived experience. "I have broadened the definition to say that any experience that makes us feel unsafe psychically or emotionally can be traumatic," stated Rein. By redefining trauma, people across the gender spectrum are able to find validation in their experiences and begin their journey to healing these traumas not just for ourselves, but for future generations.

While PSD is not experienced by one particular gender, as women who have been one of the most historically disadvantaged and oppressed groups, we have inherited survival instructions that express themselves differently for different women. For some women, this means their nervous systems freeze when faced with something that has been historically dangerous for women such as stepping into their power, speaking out, being visible or making a lot of money. Then there are women who go into fight or flight mode. Although they are able to stand in the spotlight, they pay a high price for it when their nervous system begins to work in a constant state of hyper vigilance in order to keep them safe. These women often find themselves having trouble with anxiety, intimacy, sleeping or relaxing without a glass of wine or a pill. Because of this, adrenaline fatigue has become an epidemic among high achieving women that is resulting in heightened levels of stress and anxiety.

"For the first time, it makes sense that we are not broken or making this up, and we have gained this understanding by looking through the lens of a shared trauma. All of these things have been either forbidden or impossible for women. A woman's power has always been a punishable offense throughout history," stated Rein.

Although the idea of having a disorder may be scary to some and even potentially contribute to a victim mentality, Rein wants people to be empowered by PSD and to see it as a diagnosis meant to validate your experience by giving it a name, making it real and giving you a means to heal yourself. "There are still experiences in our lives that are triggering PSD and the more layers we heal, the more power we claim, the more resilience we have and more ability we have in staying plugged into our power and happiness. These triggers affect us less and less the more we heal," emphasized Rein. While the task of breaking intergenerational transmission of trauma seems intimidating, the author has flipped the negative approach to the healing journey from a game of survival to the game of how good can it get.

In her new book, Patriarchy Stress Disorder: The Invisible Barrier to Women's Happiness and Fulfillment, Rein details an easy system for healing that includes the necessary tools she has sourced over 20 years on her healing exploration with the pioneers of mind, body and trauma resolution. Her 5-step system serves to help "Jailbreakers" escape the inner prison of PSD and other hidden trauma through the process of Waking Up in Prison, Meeting the Prison Guards, Turning the Prison Guards into Body Guards, Digging the Tunnel to Freedom and Savoring Freedom. Readers can also find free tools on Rein's website to help aid in their healing journey and exploration.

"I think of the book coming out as the birth of a movement. Healing is not women against men– it's women, men and people across the gender spectrum, coming together in a shared understanding that we all have trauma and we can all heal."