How I (Fi­nally) Hired A Rock­star Sum­mer In­tern For My Small Busi­ness

ForbesWeekly - - NEWS - BY AU­TUMN ADEIGBO, CON­TRIB­U­TOR

I’ve spo­ken to nu­mer­ous en­trepreneurs over the past few months, and each told me how dif­fi­cult it is to find, hire and main­tain a good in­tern. This holds es­pe­cially true if your or­ga­ni­za­tion isn’t a big com­pany with whom af­fil­i­a­tion will of­fer a bright spot of the prospec­tive in­tern’s re­sume and/ or good pay with ben­e­fits like daily lunch, ac­cess to VIP events or even travel.

If you’re a small com­pany like I am with your­self as the only full-time (or part-time) em­ployee, it’s im­por­tant to find in­tern tal­ent that strongly iden­ti­fies with your com­pany cul­ture and val­ues. This way they will em­body an in­her­ent ded­i­ca­tion to what you stand for. I re­cently learned that hir­ing a qual­ity in­tern 100% be­gins with me as the em­ployer.

The first time I at­tempted to hire an in­tern I was pretty young—in my mid 20’s. I hired a se­nior in high school who ap­proached me be­cause she was very pas­sion­ate about fash­ion. Her school agreed to give her credit for the job, but due to my in­ex­pe­ri­ence, I didn’t con­duct a for­mal hir­ing or vet­ting process. With­out many ques­tions, I hired her and we be­gan work.

Her daily re­spon­si­bil­i­ties con­sisted of what­ever tasks arose that I needed help with for the day. From my own per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence as an in­tern, this “by the seat of your pants” man­ner of work­ing with in­terns can be pretty com­mon. How­ever, it’s not how to get max­i­mum mu­tual ben­e­fit out of their as­sis­tance.

In this in­stance, be­cause I didn’t pro­vide my young in­tern with guide­lines, struc­ture or much re­spon­si­bil­ity, we only worked to­gether for about a month be­fore I had to let her go. One day, I gave her my credit card to pick up a few items in the fash­ion district. She pro­ceeded to take taxis ev­ery­where she went through­out the day, charg­ing my card in­stead of tak­ing the sub­way. I was in dis­be­lief.

I held two in­tern­ships when I was in col­lege, dur­ing which I could have never imag­ined us­ing my boss’ credit card to take taxis around the city. Dur­ing my in­tern­ship as a fash­ion stylist, I car­ried heavy gar­ment bag upon gar­ment bag of clothes, shoes and ac­ces­sories, re­turn­ing to de­sign­ers around the city. I walked in the snow, took the bus and rode the sub­way, but never a car.

Un­for­tu­nately, I had to let my first in­tern go and re­port to her school the rea­son why. But ul­ti­mately it was my fault for not prop­erly train­ing her.

This sum­mer my team and I are plan­ning brand in­tro­duc­tion events in Man­hat­tan and Wash­ing­ton, D.C., sim­i­lar to the one we held in Cincin­nati last Novem­ber. As spring be­gan, I knew I needed to hire an in­tern but was ner­vous about where and how to re­cruit one. Luck­ily the tal­ent ended up ap­proach­ing me.

Ini­tial con­tact

I orig­i­nally met our new in­tern, Lila, in 2014 when she was a high school stu­dent in­tern­ing for the Global Good Fund (GGF), a Wash­ing­ton, D.C. based lead­er­ship de­vel­op­ment or­ga­ni­za­tion where I was in my first year as a fel­low. Dur­ing the GGF an­nual gala, Lila pulled me aside and showed me a pre­sen­ta­tion she did on my so­cial en­ter­prise on her lap­top.

I was in­cred­i­bly moved by her work. She was 16 at the time and al­ready very fo­cused.

Lila and I re­con­nected af­ter I sent out the com­pany’s first branded news­let­ter to my net­work this past March. She loved the news­let­ter and reached out to me, ask­ing if we could of­fi­cially col­lab­o­rate in the near fu­ture. She was now a fresh­man NYU study­ing at Gal­latin’s School of In­di­vid­u­al­ized Stud­ies.

The in­ter­view

I pre­pared for Lila’s in­ter­view by out­lin­ing the things I was look­ing for in a sum­mer in­tern, ask­ing her what she wanted to gain from the po­si­tion, and mak­ing sure those things matched. I made sure the time the po­si­tion re­quired was a fit for what time she could of­fer. I did re­search on her school ex­pe­ri­ence and asked her ques­tions about her fam­ily, her pas­sions and what she ul­ti­mately wants to do in her ca­reer.

Then, I shared the ba­sics about the brand. She was al­ready very fa­mil­iar with our DNA due to the project she did while at GGF. I shared what we had done since we last con­nected (win­ning a busi­ness plan con­test, launch­ing a fair-trade pro­duc­tion pro­gram in Ghana), where we want to go and what we need to get there.

Then I moved into the po­si­tion re­quire­ments. I shared specifics about the ap­proach­ing brand events and what her re­spon­si­bil­i­ties would be. I also shared the dig­i­tal skills and tools in which she would need pro­fi­ciency in or­der to man­age her po­si­tion, while open­ing the door for her to of­fer ad­di­tional project man­age­ment tools I may not be aware of (mil­len­ni­als will as­tound you with their tech­ni­cal knowl­edge).

Lila gave me her re­sume and up­dated me on what she had been do­ing since her po­si­tion at GGF: She cowrote a book and suc­cess­fully crowd­funded the cap­i­tal to have it pub­lished and mar­keted. She was also main­tain­ing a 4.0 GPA at NYU and had been ac­cepted into NYU’s School of Global Lead­er­ship in D.C. for the fall 2016 se­mes­ter. She had nu­mer­ous other ac­co­lades, in­clud­ing be­ing a pre­sen­ter for TED and be­ing the stu­dent or­ga­nizer for NYU’s En­tre­pre­neur fes­ti­val.

Hir­ing, daily work and re­spon­si­bil­i­ties

I re­al­ized quickly that Lila and I shared a com­pat­i­bil­ity in our pas­sions and work style, so I hired her dur­ing the in­ter­view. We de­cided that her ac­com­plish­ments and ex­pe­ri­ence awarded her a ti­tle past “in­tern” and her of­fi­cial ti­tle would be “Col­le­giate Am­bas­sador and Sum­mer As­sis­tant.”

I knew that I had qual­ity tal­ent on my hands, and it was my re­spon­si­bil­ity to make sure she had the right tools to make the ex­pe­ri­ence fruit­ful for both of us. The sec­ond time we met, we re­viewed sam­ples and the brand mood board, pro­vid­ing a vis­ual and tac­tile coun­ter­part to her un­der­stand­ing of the brand. I fur­ther out­lined the po­si­tion’s re­spon­si­bil­i­ties, which in­cluded: • Man­ag­ing me. They say that a good as­sis­tant man­ages her boss—keeps her cal­en­dar, re­minds her of dead­lines and keeps her on task with the mi­cro-items so the higher-up can keep her vi­sion clear to man­age big pic­ture items.

• Act­ing as event stew­ard for at­ten­dees, keep­ing them abreast on de­vel­op­ments and let­ting them know she is there for them for any need they may have.

• Man­ag­ing the guest list and RSVPs—mak­ing sure that if one at­tendee can’t make it that their space is filled.

• Mak­ing sure all event ven­dors are sourced and ar­rive to lo­ca­tion on time.

• Man­ag­ing the over­all event cal­en­dar and project com­mu­ni­ca­tion boards.

In or­der for us to be on the same page, I out­lined all rules and guide­lines in a doc­u­ment along with a non-dis­clo­sure agree­ment for us both to ex­e­cute. Ev­ery day prior to us meet­ing, I send Lila the agenda for the fol­low­ing day.

The out­come

So far she has been an in­valu­able re­source work­ing with me to de­velop the event cal­en­dar, plan our ven­dors, writ­ing copy for at­tendee com­mu­ni­ca­tions and reach­ing out to high-level ex­ec­u­tives from our at­tendee list to con­firm their RSVPs.

There was a bit of magic ap­par­ent in me suc­cess­fully hir­ing our col­le­giate am­bas­sador (in­tern). When that in­for­mal magic is bal­anced with an ex­treme pro­fes­sion­al­ism on both our parts, it cre­ates the re­sults I had en­vi­sioned for our brand’s sum­mer events.

I’ve learned that in­terns thrive on struc­ture and clear ex­pec­ta­tions. I’m ex­cited to see what we pro­duce as she joins my small team of women who un­der­stand the DNA of what the brand is about and are com­mit­ted to build­ing it from the ground up.

Meet Our Sum­mer Col­le­giate In­tern- Lila! Au­tumn Adeigbo shirt and dress; RJ Graziano Jew­elry

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