Before the famous were famous—Oprah, Steven Spielberg, Bill Gates, and many others—they were interns. Everyone has to start somewhere, so why not begin your career where you are welcomed with open arms?
We have a small number of interns working at FirstRain right now and it’s interesting to look at not only the direct benefits for FirstRain, but also the indirect ones. Internships are powerful both for us (the company and the intern); it’s a great alignment of mutual interest.
The benefits to the intern are obvious. Experience drinking from the fire hose, training and rapid learning, the fun of working in a small dynamic company and, because it is small, the opportunity to work on a wide variety of different projects.
We benefit in some obvious ways – first and foremost that we get to interview someone on the job. Since the intern does not have job experience it’s hard to interview them on prior work experience (!) but by bringing them in and having them work on clear objectives we can review their performance and so make a more informed hiring decision.
But the non-obvious benefits are almost more interesting. Our new college graduates are fresh. They have new perspectives and challenge our assumptions – and the assumptions of how a job “should” be done. They are eager to learn and as all teachers know, teaching something causes you to think hard about what matters and really understand what you are teaching. There is also a fun energy you get into an organization when you have a group of professionals, often with 10-20 years of experience, mixed in with new graduates.
While Silicon Valley is coming back for people with experience, it’s still a hard place to find a job if you don’t have experience and this creates a Catch-22 for the intern. As one of our interns told me:
“For many of us recent college grads we have little or no real-world experience. This experimental period not only helps me decide what I would like to pursue in my career, but it also helps me because being able to reference an internship on a resume can make all the difference in a future employers decision. They can see if I have a strong work ethic, if I was smart on the job, and help me bridge from college to my new career. And I can check you out and network with your employees!”
So who knows whether I have a future Oprah or Bill Gates in my organization. But I do know that the added productivity, the energy and the opportunity to help the next generation of graduating students is a win-win for FirstRain – and it’s fun.