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How Hiring An Intern Can Help Your Startup




How many times have you had a great idea that was put on the back burner due to lack of time, resources or money? What happens to all of those things on our to-do lists that would be nice-to-have instead of need-to-have? These nice-to-have to-dos never seem to get accomplished because our “real” work gets in the way.


Struggling with this myself at UQ Marketing, I often felt like our company was acting as an over-extended parent; putting our client’s well-being ahead of our own. That is when my team had an a-ha moment! We have a network of college students across the country helping our clients with their business goals on campus, why not put them to work for us?


We decided to test outsourcing some nice-to-have tasks to 10 college students across the country looking to gain hands on business experience. The interns are unpaid and complete tasks on a project basis in exchange for university credit. It was a great way for us to get the ball rolling on initiatives we wouldn’t otherwise have time to do.



I believe any business can create a mutually beneficial internship program that helps students gain relevant experience, while bringing ideas to life that may not otherwise become a priority. Here are some tips for hiring a intern and how startups can utilize interns to achieve their business goals:


Increasing Social Media Activity

We all know social media is important, but if you are anything like me – keeping up to date with social media accounts often seems like a chore. College students are some of the most fluent social media users today, and many universities are offering majors that encompass social media into the curriculum.


Tip: Hire a social media intern, ask them to blog once a week about relevant topics you discuss together. If you are going to give them access to your twitter account, use a service like Twuffer to help manage and edit their tweets.



Understanding your Customers

Everyone wants to understand their target market better, but many entrepreneurs don’t have the time to conduct quantitative research in their free time unless it is absolutely necessary to their success. This is a big miss. Not only does research help you understand your market better, it can also position you as an expert in your field.


Tip: Hire an intern studying statistics or consumer behavior and have them work with their professor to craft a survey about your market. Provide them with customer lists, or pay for them to go to an industry conference to gather data from a sample of at least 200 respondents. Have them analyze the data and present it to your team. If the findings are meaningful, you can release a white paper and share with your strategic partners and potential customers.


Growing the Top Line

I am not suggesting that students should be a part of your sales force; however, college students hoping to learn more about a sales career can act as sales support – making your sales person’s lives a little easier, so they can focus on making more calls and closing more deals. College students can help your sales people become more effective.


Tip: Hire an outgoing self-starter, and give them some customer service responsibilities as well as sales tasks.  Whether this is assisting customers online through a service like Zen Desk, or plugging in leads and making introductions through a CRM tool  (Zoho CRM is my favorite), they can help you better serve customers and help fill your sales funnel. Further motivate your intern by paying a commission for their leads that convert into new customers.


Recruiting Great Talent

If you decide to utilize interns in your startup, they could be your future hires as your business grows. According to The National Association of Colleges and Employers, interns who become full-time hires are more likely to stick with the organization than their co-workers who didn’t go through the program: More than one-third of employers (37.3 %) reported higher retention among those converted from intern to employee within the first year of hire, and nearly half (48.8 %) said former interns had higher retention five years after hire.



I know what you’re thinking… ‘all of this sounds great, but how do I find these students?’


Tip: There are enough coffee-toting internships out there, students are craving quality experiences. My recommendation is to network with the universities closest to you – reach out to professors, speak with classes and get to know the career services office very well. Like most hires, the best interns we have were recommendations from people we know, like professors, family and friends.


Our Virtual Internship Program has grown from 10 interns to 50 interns across the country, and the list of nice-to-have to-dos doesn’t keep me up at night any more. I’m not recommending that it makes sense for every business to have a team of interns that could field a football team, but if you haven’t hired interns before then do yourself a favor and add ‘find a great intern’ to your need-to-have to do list today.



Leah Bell is the President and Co-Founder of UQ Marketing, an agency headquartered in Columbus, Ohio that specializes in building brands on college campuses. Before UQ Marketing, Leah held sales and marketing roles at two Fortune 20 companies where she saw firsthand how big brands were struggling to connect with her generation.

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