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Business Articles
It's Your Business: Intern(al) Affairs
(posted on Northwest Meetings + Events)
By Heather Larson

 

Working with interns is a win-win situation for meeting and event planners. Interns bring a fresh perspective to your business; they work hard and are costeffective. In return, they gain invaluable experience-experience they would not be able to get in a classroom-which will help them succeed in their chosen field.

"Because of the nature of this industry, interns are very green and want experience, so they are keen to work on anything," says Deborah Wallace, president of The Finer Details Event Planning Inc. in Vancouver, B.C. "Most of the interns who do a placement with us typically turn into contract workers, so this is a great way to train future team members."

Wallace says that interns prove to be most useful when they are actively involved with managing events. Having enough tasks to keep them motivated and engaged rather than trying to dredge up work for them to fill their time makes sense.

"In our business there are always things we have on the back burner and we can always use internsfor those," says Shelley Tomberg, vice president of sales for Columbia Hospitality in Seattle. "Ours have researched for prospecting, helped with proposal writing and much more."


Choosing Interns

Potential interns could very well be in your backyard, so to speak. If you're near a college or institution of higher learning with a food and beverage program or business and marketing classes, contact the school to find out when or if interns might be available.

Tomberg says the University of Washington and Central Washington University have programs where students are required to complete an internship. These students work from 10-20 hours a week and receive from three to five credits for that work. Once you've used interns in your business, the university program director will typically come back to you to see if you're interested in hiring another intern.

Tomberg says choosing an intern should be approached in the same way you would hire a new employee. "Do a formal interview," she says, "to see if they will be a cultural fit with your business."

When you've decided which interns to hire, put them through your orientation process just like you would a new hire. This gives them an idea about what your company's values are and what its mission is.


Interns Offer Valuable Skills

Both Wallace and Tomberg were impressed with how computer-savvy their interns have been.

"They are great at social media," says Tomberg. "Mine put together LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook pages for me. I must admit some of us are behind in the area of social media, while interns are current."

Regardless of what your interns are asked to do, they will undoubtedly bring new exuberance and enthusiasm to the project.

"They take something that I think is a bit stale, like a proposal or a PowerPoint, and they take the time to make it more interesting because they have the know-how and they are having fun doing it," Tomberg says.

She adds that she likes to put together a timeline of what she wants done in the next couple of weeks, but doesn't go into detail about how to do it. This gives interns opportunities to think for themselves and not feel like they are just doing busy work.

"I want them to add their own flair, because that's what makes it fun," says Tomberg. "You get better work when you allow them to use their own brain."

Remember to treat your interns with respect and provide them with real-world experience, because once their internship is over they will join the workforce. If they've had a positive internship experience, they'll serve as your evangelists in the workforce.

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