Uncovered: A hidden talent pool

24.05.11 | Posted in Entrepreneurship General

your hidden


Very early on in the Business Chicks business I learned the value of interns. Money was tight, time was tighter, and well to be honest – we were learning as we went, so another person in the mix was always welcome.

Our first experience of an intern came in the form of a young woman (let’s call her Hannah, cos that’s her name) who was studying hospitality and had an interest in events. At this point there were only two full time employees in the business and Hannah was a breath of fresh air. During our first phone conversation she promised to bring in cupcakes and had no qualms with traveling over one hour from her home to our office (my apartment!) In fact, she was so keen that she’d often make it to work before anyone else and would sit in her car and wait for us.

Hannah applied herself to her duties with such an amount of enthusiasm and joy that we offered her a full-time role and she stayed with us for three years.

And so went our first experience with interns. It was such a pleasure that we’ve continued to hire them in the business for the past five years, with mixed results of course.

Just yesterday we had another stand out experience. Bec started off by volunteering at our events and made herself known to our team. When she heard we were looking for an intern, she applied for the role and was with us for a few months before we offered her a permanent part-time role. During this time we were assessing whether Bec was a fit for the business (and vice versa I’m sure!) and just yesterday we offered her a full-time role.

Here are a few things I’ve learned about interns and internships:

* Internships can be time-consuming (and should be so, if you’re doing them right). If you’re a business, you need to understand that there’s an investment of time and resource to give them the best chance of working out. We induct interns in the same way we would permanent employees – they spend time with each of the departments and we make sure they understand the vision of the business and their role within it, and then we monitor their progress and do our best to support them throughout the whole internship.

* If an intern isn’t working out, cut the cord. And quick. If you’ve done all the right things by the person (provided adequate training and leadership and all the tools to do the job), don’t spend another moment trying to make it work. As I said above, an investment is required in interns, but it’s a two-way street – you do need to be getting value back and not frustrating your permanent team members by having them with you.

* Give interns valuable, meaningful work. Don’t look at internships as a way to get free (or cheap) labour and have them do the work that no one else wants to do – look at them as a way to meet a potential talent pool for your business and to give value back to the person through the learning experience. Gone are the days when interns would stand over a photocopier for hours on end and do the lunch run.

If you’re looking for an intern for your company, we’ve started a new group on the Business Chicks website named (very originally!) Internships. Here’s the link. Our Premium members can list opportunities there for interns, and interns can also post details about themselves in the hope of securing a great placement. All the best with it, and remember, what you put in is what you get back.


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  1. Catherine Brooks

    Emma, fascinating post thanks!

    It definitely needs to be a win/win situation. I would profer that you need to allow both parties enough time to get to know each other (the business, the individual, what’s expected of them etc) for the relationship to really be of worth.

    Once the ground rules are established and the intern has gotten to know your business, I’ve found that it can then be good to ask for their input – often they’re fresh out of uni or another industry and have great ideas about how to do things differently/better/bigger/stronger etc. You never know what doors/opportunities the relationship may lead to.

    Also – don’t be scared to hire a mature-aged intern. They can also bring a whole heap of experience and knowledge to your business.

    Finally – make sure you’re paying them correctly whilst they’re in your employ. Seek advice from if you’re not sure and make it very clear to them on what basis they’re working with you (fixed term/casual etc) and then provide them with a new letter of offer/contract of employment if their employment status with your business changes.

    Definitely a great way to source future employees in this skills shortage environment.

    Thanks again Emma :)

  2. Lisa Messenger

    Ems – another great BLOG. Totally relate. We have been using interns for almost ten years in the business. Thanks again for sharing and congrats on the new edition of Bec to the team xx L

  3. Emma

    Hi Jodie

    It all varies obviously on the role and the person and their requirements (and of course, our requirements.) Generally interns are with us for three-six months and we pay between $20-25 an hour, but again, this varies.

    Hope this helps!