Will a project internship limit my pool of students to choose from?


I have been reading blogs from YouTern.com about the advantages for students to have an internship at a startup company (working directly with the owners). And, I have also read that using interns for my startup can be advantageous to my company (fresh ideas and eagerness).

With limited time I would like to offer an intern(s) “project” internship(s) but have learned that most Career Centers at Universities will not allow college credits or support the Project internship.

I am looking for the energetic students to really work hard and help grow our business. Will a project internship limit my pool of students to choose from? How best do I work around the Career Centers to offer a student rewarding internship?

Thank you for your Help!
Kim (CEO)


Naomi Kokubo

Naomi Kokubo

by Naomi Kokubo, Cofounder of Founders Space

It’s very hard to get a “project” internship off the ground. Most schools don’t offer credits for the internships. I wouldn’t spend too much time trying to make this happen. Your best bet is to simply pay the students minimum wage and hire them on as interns.

If you’re willing to pay the interns, most Career Centers will be happy to make an internship job posting on your behalf.

Interns are valuable, but you should make sure that the type of work they’re doing is right for your business. Here are a few things to consider:

1) Is the work interesting to the interns? Or is it really boring?

2) Do you have someone on staff who has time and is willing to mentor the interns?

3) Will your investment of time/energy into the internships pay off? You can spend a lot of time training interns, only to have them leave in a month or two. You need to factor this into your calculations. Also, is the work the interns will be doing in line with your business objectives?

If you don’t have the type of work that’s naturally suited to an internship, either it’s too boring or too complex, then you probably should not have interns. I’ve seen many cases where internships wind up costing a startup valuable time and resources and not providing much value for the students.

Just make sure you plan carefully and understand exactly what you need from the interns before bringing them on board.

I hope this helps!

Comments & Advice:
  1. Lauren says:

    This is exactly why I founded Freelanship.com.

  2. Mark Babbitt says:

    Naomi and DD make some very good points; I particularly appreciate the emphasis on the “mentor” aspect of internships.

    By definition, an internship is “experiential education” — the intern should learn something from the experience. At a start-up, however, the internship must be of mutual benefit to the intern and the company. There just isn’t enough time to have an “internship program” where the intern is wasting their, or your, time; the intern candidate chosen must be able to contribute while learning.

    At YouTern, we see many project-based, mutually beneficial internships. The intern gains a nice resume tag, improves their skills, and contributes in a dynamic environment. The start-up gains a short-term project manager for a task that may not get the attention it otherwise deserves.

    The real key when delegating tasks to a project intern, as Naomi states, is setting proper expectations — both the intern’s and yours. What do they, and you, hope to achieve? And does that fit in with both your company goals and the career aspirations of the intern? If yes, that makes for a good combination.

  3. DD (Cofounder of Startup) says:

    Kim, I am a cofounder of a start up business and have used interns for “projects”. These have included social media, graphic design, some engineering projects, and marketing. Its been AMAZING! The work I have is “project” oriented because I don’t need a 6 week or 6 month graphic designer, as an example. So, these students help our company considerably.

    The benefit to them is they get to put the work on their resume, have a great reference, and some got paid.

    The benefit to our company was some real talent with the new era of marketing and social media. They are great students, lots of energy. And, I now have some students that I know that can help us out with “projects.” Plus, we hope a couple are available to us when the company can hire full time.

    So, in my experience “projects” for interns are good for a company and students. About Career Centers, my experience has been that they are new to working with start ups in general, and shy away from “project” work.

    Hope this helps someone.