Consider this scenario: Summer is approaching and your work keeps piling up. You consider hiring an intern to lessen your load, but debate it because training him can feel like a second job.
Sound familiar? LinkedIn's Connection Director Nicole Williams says she's been guilty of this scenario before:
"I know there are students out there looking for an opportunity to build their skills," she says. "But instead of just putting out the call, I end up oscillating somewhere between: I could use the support, but sometimes it feels like it's more work to train them than do it myself. And on top of it all, I'm not sure I'm going to have a full-time job for them at the end of the internship."
Williams, who has forged successful partnerships with interns in the past, says that with the right guidance, hiring interns can be beneficial for both parties. Here are five tips for doing so.
1. Get to know your intern. Williams says that because this could be your intern's first "real" job experience, they'll probably feel a bit shy, out of place and intimidated. To break the ice, take some time to get to know your intern: their school, interests, career aspirations, etc.
"Creating rapport with them will open up the lines of communication and make them feel more at ease, which in turn will make them more skillful workers," she says.
Williams suggests starting by learning about them through their LinkedIn profile, so you have background information. Once they start, meet with them one-on-one for lunch, for example, and follow-up with them weekly or monthly with status reports that highlight, among other things, the skills they've acquired so far in the internship.
2. Have "the talk." If your intern is looking for a job—but you don't have one to offer—let him know that upfront. "If you don't have a job for them don't feel guilty about it," she says, "but make sure they are walking away with tangible skills and real-world work experience that will land them a full-time gig."
3. Make grunt-work meaningful. Menial tasks are a part of any internship, but the key to keeping your intern focused on the big-picture is to ensure they understand the necessity of the grunt work in a larger context.
"The younger population is more apt to do the grunt happily if they see how it's tied to the greater job and goal," Williams says. "Tell them that it may feel like grunt work, but this is how it's contributing to the team and to the goal at hand. That helps to take away the bad connotation."
4. Manage your time. One of the questions Williams is asked most frequently is how much time you should spend checking in on your intern and managing him. Williams says that a small investment of time on a weekly basis is going to save you time in the long run, especially if you want him to take on tasks that will lessen your load.
"Conduct weekly meetings to talk about goals for the week, instead of checking in daily," Williams recommends. "Have an agenda instead of just shooting the breeze. Remind them that this is their opportunity to learn so encourage them to be self-directed, but confirm deadlines and where they're allowed to take initiative and learn on their own accord."
[Want more LinkedIn tips, tricks and analysis? Check out CIO.com's LinkedIn Bible.]
5. Know when to say goodbye. The worst thing an employer can do is keep an internship going with no end—or pay—in sight, Williams says.
"If they really have done a stellar job for you, have learned everything they can in the context of this opportunity, but you just don't have the resources to hire them, then flat out let them know."
Encourage interns to look for a position that pays if they're currently unpaid, Williams recommends, and write them a recommendation and reach out to your network to see if you have contacts that might be a good fit for them.
Kristin Burnham covers consumer technology, social networking and enterprise collaboration for CIO.com. Follow Kristin on Twitter @kmburnham. Follow everything from CIO.com on Twitter @CIOonline and on Facebook. Email Kristin at email@example.com