This guidance was largely produced by Johnny Zachman, intern facilitator extraordinaire and CM at doNYC, with input from Do512, Do312, Do317, and DoLA. Thanks teams!
We are here to do awesome stuff. As much stuff as possible. The more we do, the more we grow, and the more we help the residents of our cities do amazing things.
We start our metro sites with incredibly small teams, and so the ability to hire, manage, and successfully utilize a team of interns can not only save you a ton of work, but also it can give your site a huge step up in terms of manpower, and allow you to do much more than you may have previously thought possible. From inputting quality content to helping manage logistics for your events, interns can add significant value to your site and community.
Without proper planning, interns can be a huge time suck - and a big annoyance - and we want to ensure that you maximize the returns on all of the effort that you put in when you build your program and your team.
If you already have an internship program you'd like to improve or are about to start one, this guidance is here to help you through the process. It covers everything from whom to hire to how to hire, from training templates to management tips. Here's the breakdown:
If you have any questions about anything as you go, please reach out. We love to hear from you.
II. Define Your Program
Each metro should define their internship needs based on the work that needs to be done. You’ll want to carefully assemble a team that can complete all of the tasks necessary to make your metro successful without over hiring.
You don’t want people sitting around and you don’t want work left undone.
- Versatility Is Key -
The more tasks an intern is interested in and able to perform, the better.
Hire people who can do a lot of different stuff.
Do312 has frequent design needs, but not enough of them to keep an intern fully occupied. Therefore, they have combined their design internship with a content internship, and their designer alternates between the two fields as needed.
No matter how much you plan, new needs will always arise, and you want your interns to be ready and willing to accept new challenges.
- Define expectations before the internship starts. -
Do you want your social media interns to also be able to edit video? That’s fine! Just be sure to put that in the job description.
Your interns can wear a variety of hats, but make sure that they know what they’re walking into when they get here.
Explain that every day is different and frame the variety of tasks you’ll be assigning as a blessing.
They’re lucky to be honing such a wide array of awesome skills! (It’s true.)
- Example Roles -
While responsibilities can be fluid, some common internship roles/areas of responsibility include:
- 21+? -
Most metros require their interns to be 21.
It is important that interns are able to attend and help out at all the awesome events that you put on.
While you’re shaking hands and forming new relationships at your events, it’s good to know that you have extra manpower to handle everything from making social media posts to refilling ice in coolers.
Do512 is now requiring (and providing funding for) all of their interns to receive barback certifications. This allows interns to legally serve, open and restock alcoholic beverages, as well as check IDs. Having interns perform these tasks can potentially save metros a lot of money when putting on events.
- College Credit? -
Most doXXX metros make it possible for interns to receive college credit for their work. Some metros, including doNYC, prefer for interns to be working to earn school credit so that there is some steadfast chain of accountability in place surrounding their performance and attendance.
Academic institutions typically require the supervisors of interns working for credit to issue formal letters of acceptance as well as progress reports and a final evaluation.
No need to stress: These documents are typically brief (one page or less) and can functionas a great way to touch base with your interns about their experience in your company.
- How Many? -
1. How much space do you have?
If you have an office and require your interns to be working out of it, then the amount of space you have available will be a huge factor in how many interns you take on. You want your team to be comfortable.
2. Quantity of work should dictate the number of intern hires.
It is extremely important that your interns are never left waiting for something to do. If you have too many interns, there won’t be enough work to go around. Know what needs to be done, know how much manpower is needed to do it, and don’t overhire. The last thing you need is a bunch of bored interns on your hands. If you find that you are ever having to make up work for your team, you have too many interns.
3. The ‘One Intern Per Employee’ Rule
Every metro is different, and only you will know how many interns you need. However, following the general guideline of one intern per full-time employee is a good place to start in order to optimize productivity and minimize distractions. It is important to maintain control and order over your interns, and having too many interns can often lead to too much talking and general chaos. You don’t want your office to feel like a classroom, and you don’t want to feel like you can’t get work done at work.
- How Often? -
The 12 Hour Rule: While we have no specific guidelines for the maximum amount of hours an intern should take on, we strongly recommend that all interns work a minimum of 12 hours per week.
We operate in a fast-paced environment, and our team has to work hard every week just to stay up-to-date with all of the latest changes in our city’s musical landscape and the technological improvements on our platform. It is important that your team stays up to date with these changes as they come so you don’t spend time back-tracking through old news.
We promise you this: An intern who can only come in for four hours per week will not be worth your time.
That intern will spend more time asking questions and clarifying points than actually doing work. Plus, they will have so much time in between shifts that they’ll forget how to perform certain aspects of their job.
If an intern can’t work two solid 6 hour days per week, you should look for someone else. There are plenty of other fish in the sea!
III. Job Postings
Once you've established the roles you need filled by interns, create the compelling job postings that will accurately describe the role and attract the right candidates (use your voice!).
Do512 has divided their internship program into three specific roles: Sales, Content/Editorial, Social Media/Marketing. From their comprehensive job posting, we created this template you can copy and adapt to describe your needs.
doNYC promotes its internship openings directly on a doNYC page. Check out their example postings for Editorial/Social Media and Graphic Design internships.
IV. Recruiting & Hiring the AWESOMEST Interns
Where To Look:
1. Let them come to you.
All metros should quickly develop to a visible enough force within your city’s culture that people all around the area will be aware of your site and all the badass things you do.
Prospective interns who reply back to an email blast, make contact over social media, or reach out after attending an event are often excellent choices because their method of introduction demonstrates a familiarity with your site and brand as well as a sign that they are participating in the larger social entertainment culture in which we operate.
The more a prospective intern knows about us, the better. This knowledge is likely to translate to greater intrinsic motivation, and you’ll also have to explain less about us when they start.
2. Post on college career / internship boards.
First of all, know your school. If you’re looking for a designer, post at an art school or one that has a design major available. Many schools have social media majors or minors, and these are often the best places to find social media / editorial interns. Also, all things being equal, start with the better schools.
Before you do post, be sure to contact someone from that university’s career center. They’ll help you optimize your listing to target your needs in the most effective way possible, and they’ll also help point potentially good fits in your direction.
A Tip From Do317’s Josh Baker:
Have an intern who excelled during their semester? Ask them to introduce you to their advisor. Josh recommends taking college advisors out for coffee or lunch so you can demonstrate how awesome you are, how professional your company is, and how valuable the internship will be for their students. From these exchanges, he’s gotten advisors at Butler University to personally email his internship posting to all of their students.
3. Have an awesome intern? Ask their friends.
No matter how much we study or write about it, there’s a certain ineffability to finding the right fit. Some people just get it, and these folks are often drawn to like-minded individuals, especially if they’re spending most of their time out at shows or events. Doers are drawn to Doers. That’s a fact.
Where Not To Look:
Don’t ever do that. It will flood your inbox with bad candidates and strange requests.
*If you've tried and have some good examples of this, please share!
Who To Look For:
1. Active Users of the Site
You don’t want to have to pitch your metro to your prospective interns. They should already be fans of the site. Their belief and excitement will translate to high-quality output, and they’ll be excited to tell their friends about their work.
No matters what it is, it’s important that your interns have their own thing going. This can take many forms: running blogs, playing in bands, leading comedy troupes, promoting shows or events, anything!
We want people who are out and about doing awesome stuff to come do awesome stuff with us. Plus, if someone isn’t doing awesome stuff in their spare time, it’s less likely that they’ll do awesome stuff on the clock. We want to be leading leaders! Let’s go find them.
3. Active Users of Social Media
When you get an applicant, Google them. A good fit is pretty obvious. Ideal applicants should have active profiles on at least 2-3 social media platforms.
Be sure to check out your applicant’s social feeds. These can be much more informative than a cover letter, because they reveal what the applicant actually posts about and is actually interested in. They also reveal the strength of your applicants’ social media savy.
While it’s unlikely that a prospective candidate will have active accounts on all major platforms, it’s important that he/she is at least familiar with what’s out there and has a defined opinion about who is doing great things on social media.
4. People Who Are Good At The Internet
HTML/CSS knowledge is a plus. The ability to find a good .gif is too.
A big portion of our job is entertainment, and an intern with a creative sense of internet humor is a huge plus. We need people who love spending time online and know how to find awesome stuff - and it doesn’t hurt if they’re super fun to hang out with.
5. Smart People
Your applicants’ GPA will speak volumes about their quality of work and frequency of attendance.
Again, we want leaders. Anyone who works for us, even as an intern, is representing our company to the entire world. We want the best and brightest.
**Here is an example resume of one of the most successful interns in DoStuff network history that calls out what to look for to identify potential greatness.**
Warning Flags: What do you not want to see on an application / cover letter?
1. “I just want to go to free concerts!”
Our interns get to go to a lot of free concerts and awesome events. It’s a perk, not a purpose. Watch out for applicants who list this as the main reason they want to intern.
We want people who go out because they like going out. If a prospect’s ideal night involves Netflix in bed and a cup of hot chocolate, this might not be the best fit.
3. Spelling / punctuation errors
This helps weed out about 85% of applicants. How can you expect an intern to write well for our site when they can’t write well on their application?
4. Lack of knowledge about the site / brand
Applicants who don’t do their homework are not worth your time. Never hire anyone who hasn’t heard of the site.
5. Applications out everywhere
Ask your applicants where else they’ve applied for internships. Does their decision-making process make sense, or are they just after anything they can get? We want people who know what they want.
6. Over-stretched lifestyles / too many commitments
We want leaders and active doers, but we also want our interns to show up. Talk through their schedules with your prospective interns. Are they too stretched out? Hearing “I should be able to swing it” is never a good sign.
What To Say to SELL Your Program to the AWESOMEST Candidates:
1. Be realistic with job expectations
doXXX metros have small teams. We’ve hired interns in the past, but it is by no means a guarantee or even close to the norm. We can’t promise jobs. What we CAN promise are the opportunities to learn a lot, meet a ton of amazing people, and develop all sorts of new skills - and if an intern works hard and really kills it for us, we will do everything in our power to help them find the best next step.
2. “Impressing us impresses a lot of other people.” - Allie Gruner
While we aren’t always hiring, a lot of our friends often are. Make sure your interns know how visible their performance is. Do512 and Do312 get calls every week from prospective employers looking for all-stars but will only recommend interns for jobs that they are confident will excel.
The more you do for us, the more we can do for you. We want to rave about how awesome our interns are! It makes us look good. So, give us something to rave about and we promise we’ll spread the good word all around town.
3. “Learn my job well enough so you can take it.” - Josh Feingold
DoLA’s General Manager got his start by becoming an ace around the office for his boss at Interscope Records. When his superior eventually left the position, Josh segued smoothly in. All of us will likely leave our present positions at some point, and when that happens, what could be better than having a perfectly trained successor ready and waiting? Plus, it’s good to know you have someone you can count on should you ever get sick or caught in some kind of international conspiracy that takes you away from work.
Even if our interns do not find positions within our metros, it is important that we train them to be trusted workers, as they will be representing our brand and spreading our gospel at their next positions.
Their performance will always lead back to us, and we want to have a reputation for leading future leaders.
Similar to the hire assessments for your other roles, you can copy, adapt, and use this assessment template when interviewing candidates for comparison, reference, and sharing with your team.
V. Onboarding & Training
Investing your interns in what they're doing on behalf of what you're doing is huge! Many of them are doing it for free or for credit, so you want to make it valuable to them. The value for them is not only going to be in their association with you and the cool stuff you do; it's also going to be in the real skills and experience they gain. So when you train them well and give them lots of responsibilities, it's a win for both you and them!
Asana Onboarding Template:
Every metro team is equipped in Asana with an Intern Onboarding Template (link only to PDF document - find your corresponding template by searching within your Asana projects).
With this template, you have a map to train interns efficiently and effectively. You can adapt to the specific intern role or your program, but these basic details and training schedule are a good place to start to ensure that your intern is setup to feel good about their role, be truly helpful to your team, and Get Things Done independently and successfully.
Find the Asana project in your Team
Under "Project Actions," select "Use as a Template"
Name the duplicate project for the intern being onboarded
Assign the intern supervisor and the intern tasks to go through their first week!
Handbook or Booklet:
Some good reference materials for how you do things, your expectations, etc. specific to your team will be super helpful for keeping your program consistent and setting the proper expectations for your interns.
Information Handbook: Adapted as a template from doNYC's handbook, you can create a copy and edit this document to give to your newbies. In addition to a basic explanation of what you do and office expectations, it includes content basics and social media best practices.
Do512 created the attached Intern Booklet as a primer to help them in the onboarding process, and you could customize something similarly fancy/entertaining.
Included with overall guidance in the handbook, you can also provide your interns with specific places to look for good content (in general, a good thing to keep as a running list for your team). Here is one example you can copy and adapt: Key Content Providers
Specific to event creation and editing, you can supplement LearnStuff's content management guidance with your particular tips. Here is a template to get you started that you can copy and change around to reflect your own best practices: Event Adding Pro Tips
Follow these tried and tested pro tips to ensure your internship program is a benefit and not a burden! These tips cover three big picture strategies to maximizing the effectiveness of your interns: oversight/direction, significant autonomy, and collaboration among your team.
1. Keep A Running Project List in Asana
Every single task that your team hopes to accomplish should be scheduled into Asana. At the start of the day, your supervisor should go through their list of tasks and assign each intern an ordered series of duties to be completed on that day.
2. Assign Too Much Work
Every day, assign more work than each intern could conceivably complete. Our work time moves quickly, and you never know if you’re going to get pulled into a call or sucked into a meeting.
If you were to suddenly disappear, your interns should have enough assigned to them that will be busy for the rest of the day, with or without you around. Having a lot of work assigned also gives the interns a better sense of the urgency with which the work needs to be done around the office -- and it gives them an opportunity to really shine and impress you with how much they can get done.
3. Give Yourself Time To Prepare
Mornings can be hectic and full of unexpected emergencies, so plan ahead and allow yourself some personal time before the interns arrive. If you’re going to be leading a team, you need to be in a solid head space, and you’ll find that the extra minutes you spend thinking through your interns’ assignments will pay off in the long run when you see how incredibly productive your fully-utilized team can be.
doNYC recommends starting the day with at least an hour of personal time before your interns arrive, but if you can’t devote that window in the morning, give yourself some moments at night, after breakfast, or on your daily commute. Whenever they are, it’s just important that you have some moments to clear your inbox, assemble your task lists, think through possible questions and get ready to be an excellent leader!
4. Keep a content calendar with a running list of long-term projects.
All metros should have a content calendar with each week’s special editorial features and content guides planned out ahead of time. The specific steps necessary to compile and present these features should also be plugged into Asana. Interns should have access to these calendars and be contributing ideas to them on a regular basis. Make your interns aware that if they’re ever looking for something to do, they should be working on the next feature.
5. NO BS
Interns can usually smell bullshit. They can tell when you’re making up things for them to do. You want them to take their jobs seriously, so don’t give them tasks that don’t actually need to be done. If you think there’s nothing that needs to be done, then you’re either unorganized or uninformed.
There’s always something real that needs to be done.
6. Give your interns a chance to do everything.
Start simple, but eventually make a wide array of tasks available to your interns. Ask them what they’re interested in. See what they find engaging. Interns will do better work when they’re passionate about the subject matter, but you’ll often find that interns are completely surprised by what they ended up enjoying the most.
7. Do one-on-one check ups.
It’s important to check up with your interns once every two months. This is as much for you as it is for them: Many of our metros are relatively young and still defining and refining our internship programs.
Find out what we can do better and how we can make their experience more rewarding. Also, find out what they like doing best and offer them more chances to do it.
During their February check-ups, do512 learned that two interns really loved working on content, and they ended up hiring these interns part-time when they needed additional help during SXSW.
Our interns are doing us a great service, but it’s much easier for us to help them out if we know what they want. Use your meetings with them as a chance to stay updated on how their needs and desires may have strengthened or shifted during their experience so that you can have an informed eye out for possible opportunities. You never want to be out of date.
8. Have interns help other interns.
Have them review each other’s work. Have them answer each other’s questions. Have them work on projects together. Let them bond: It makes the team stronger and it can take a lot of work off of your plate.
Remember that it can be just as valuable for interns to form connections with each other as with the other full-time employees. These interns will all be entering the workforce around the same time, and odds are, they’ll eventually be working together and helping each other find new opportunities.
Allow them to build solid relationships with one another during their time at your metro.
9. Have interns train other interns.
This not only saves you a ton of time but is also a great way for the more experienced interns to further instill some best practices into their own minds. Be available for questions or clarification during this process, but let the experienced interns take charge of the situation. You might even learn a thing or two for yourself.
10. Schedule your interns so they’re working with other interns.
This is as much for you as it is for them. In addition to the points discussed in Item 8, you also want to have time to really zone in on your work and focus on long-term tasks without being interrupted.
doNYC has 3-5 interns in on 3 days of the week. The other 2 days, it’s just the full-timers.
Know which tasks are best for which days and schedule accordingly.
11. Training is an investment. Make sure you’re always getting a sizable return.
You’ll be training your interns to complete a variety of tasks - the specific ones will be up to you. However, your goal in training should be to maximize output and minimize input. Begin training your interns with the tasks that occur every day, such as operating the pending queues and cleaning up event pages, and save infrequent tasks for your team.
12. Keep your interns creatively stimulated.
It is important that our interns are able to bring their own ideas to the table and it is important that we make them feel heard. Interns who feel like they’re doing real work for the site will be much more excited to come to work and also more willing to recommend their experience to their friends.
If you don’t believe that an intern will have something real to contribute to your site, don’t hire that person. We want people that we can learn from - because we have a lot to learn. Our full-time employees are incredibly close to our work - often too close. We can become so wrapped up in the way things operate that we are blind to potential change. Your interns have a fresh perspective. Embrace that and learn from it.
For their final project, doNYC invites their design interns to remake their entire site from scratch - and every time we learn something totally new that helps improve the way things are done.
13. Encourage your interns to be proactive and not just reactive.
The daily tasks assigned to your interns form an important basis for their experience, but we want our interns to transcend this base experience and go beyond what we ask them to do.
Keep them thinking, and keep them talking, keep them asking questions. Hold weekly brainstorming sessions where your team is only working through big ideas and potential content features. Get a dry erase board. Start a Google Doc where the team can share big ideas.
14. Trust that it’s worth it.
We’ve all been there: You’re tired, you’re stressed, you’re rushing to meet a deadline, and the last thing in the world you want to do is deal with an intern. But here’s the thing: Whatever you’re working on that is just so urgent that you can’t possibly imagine someone is bothering you during can almost always wait three minutes. Take a deep breath and be patient.
Yes, it would be easier if you didn’t also have to manage interns, but then a lot less would get done.
Remember that without the interns, the time that you are building into your day to review their work is time you wouldn’t even have. So, breathe, smile, and make yourself available for them.
The interns are working for free and they’re working to learn, so it’s important that we give feedback whenever possible. We owe them that much.
And, in the rare event of a true crisis situation where you can’t possibly take a moment to answer their question, just say so. They’ll understand -- and if you have enough tasks assigned (which you should), they’ll always have something to work on while they wait.