Intern vs. Professional: Who to Choose

If you have a business, you may be considering including the icon of awesomeness to your roster: The intern. You can’t help but be impressed by the numerous jokes and jabs associated with this time honored tradition. In fact, Monica Lewinsky was an intern, wasn’t she?

We all know how that ended. At any rate, regardless of your reasoning, the intern has a certain appeal no other title can match. When it comes to business, though, is appeal enough? At times, you simply need to bite the bullet and hire a professional.

Intern versus Professional

Take a minute to consider what the job is that you need completed

You will need to keep in mind that interns tend to be young and inexperienced. They will most likely lack life experience to intuitively understand how to think on their feet. Some may not be able to tackle independent challenges if they arise.

An intern should not have to make decisions that could affect your company, (i.e. will you accept a last minute order.) Upon hiring our first intern, we noted she simply did not understand how to answer the business phone without sounding brusque. She was excellent at scanning in business cards, though, which required little client contact.

Ask yourself if the job is something you will need permanently handled or temporarily tackled

Interns are typically students. If you assign them permanent tasks, like book keeping, you may have lots of trouble down the line when the intern leaves the task for someone else to take over.

When it comes to important office tasks, keeping your books in order is not something to put in inexperienced hands. Here’s another one: If you need someone who speaks you will be able to sound professional and answer client concerns easily, you need a professional receptionist, not an intern.

There is nothing more frustrating to a potential client than having the phone answered by someone who can’t answer questions like, “What’s your phone number?” This also rings true of straightforward pricing questions. Some clients want to know the answer right away. Don’t risk business on an intern when you need a receptionist.

How professional does the end result of the intern’s work need to be?

With the upswing of digital media marketing, many businesses are trying to use interns in lieu of professional writers. While this seems like a good idea, you will need to consider the purpose of the content your intern is creating.

An intern is a great fit to perform general data entry into a system, like color and sizes of a product.

However, if you own a high end art supply store, you may reconsider if an intern will understand what factors will be important to your clients, like paper weight and acidity.

Will an intern really grasp why a horse hair vs. synthetic fiber paint brush is an error that can cost your business money?

Further, if you’ve read website copy chock full of adjectives commonly used by your 20 year old daughter, you know exactly, like, how totally not awesome that is. Don’t let your business be reflected poorly by bad vernacular.

Don’t give your intern the opportunity to cost you money with ill fated descriptors. Hire a professional for any marketing writing you’re relying on to increase business.

Do you think your business is providing a valuable learning experience to the intern?

I know you might not be too concerned with this factor, just as long as the filing gets done. Secretly, though, your intern’s dad might be the vice president of a company that could gross you six figures per annum. To put it in perspective, try to have a viable learning experience lined up for your intern.

A lawyer who was just getting started in his practice decided to hire an intern. When they arrived, he not only didn’t have enough work, but didn’t know what to do with them since he wasn’t organized yet himself. I wonder what kind of feedback they provided their law school about him?

Lastly, remember you’re dealing with students. If you weren’t paying me to do a job, but left me all alone with a stack of documents I would never again have to set eyes on, I may be tempted to accidentally put a few in the wrong places. (Anyone who has ever been an intern is nodding their head right now, by the way.) Valuable experience doesn’t mean ‘valuable to you’ it means giving the intern take away business learning.

When it comes down to it, we all have office tasks we want to have done for us. An intern always seems like a good idea. The truth is, an intern can reflect horribly on your business if misused or ill timed.

Don’t give your interns work that should be done by a professional if it’s going to make your business look bad. At the very least, make sure you check the work your intern’s producing and teach them from their mistakes. Just don’t check it as closely as Bill Clinton did. They don’t want to learn that much from you.

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