How do you find interns?
It takes a little legwork but it’s 100% worth it to connect with the Career Services advisors and professors at your local universities. We have found great candidates from the College of Communications, Public Relations and Marketing…for some reasons, students that majored in those areas were always the very best, most hardworking interns, moreso than the students who majored in Business degrees. And of course, if these school have Hospitality and/or Events Management degree tracks, those students are ideal as well.
Every semester, we reach out to these advisors and professors and ask them to put the call out to their students that we’re accepting applications for our internship program. We ask that they spread the word with their brightest, sharpest students in the class, encouraging them to apply. We also put the opportunities up on their school’s internship job boards, as well.
In addition, we also reach out to SEPA (the Student Event Planners Association) and post the internship opportunities on their online internship job board. It’s free to post and it’s a great way to get plugged in to great candidates.
What do you look for in an intern?
They’ve got to have three things: a strong handshake, they must make eye contact confidently and the “spark”….what I mean by that is, they’ve got to have that little something special, a twinkle in their eyes, an engaged, enthusiastic personality that’s excited by the opportunity and comes to the table full of creative ideas on how to plug into our firm. When I see these three main traits, I get a good gut feeling that they are trainable…which is the most important criteria of them all.
What questions are essential to ask them?
-what’s the most interesting thing you’ve ever done in your life (so far)?
-if friends had to describe you, what words would they use?
-what are your biggest strengths that you would be bringing to the table, in this position?
-on the flipside, what are your biggest challenges or weaknesses you’ll need to work on?
-describe a tricky situation/project/challenge you worked on where you dealt with difficult personalities and how did you overcome the situation.
-why should we hire you?
How do you know if the intern is the right fit for your company?
Always trust your gut. It’s never wrong…if you are getting a weird vibe from someone for some reason, DO NOT HIRE THEM. My very best rule of thumb is this…ask yourself: if you were stuck in a lift with this person for 8 hours, would you want to shoot yourself? If in doubt, I repeat, DON’T HIRE THEM.
What can an intern do to have a better ‘shot’ at getting the position?
Write a handwritten thank-you note on really nice, letterpress style card, saying how you enjoyed meeting me today and how you’re excited about working for our company and maybe share 1 new idea of something you’d like to work on. If someone showed this much care, attention to detail and went to this effort, they are SURE to stand out among the rest.
What are the main benefits for interns and for companies?
In a thriving intern + mentor relationship, the intern should be able to walk away with tangible skills in event planning and great hands-on experience that translates into more than just being manual labor at their client events. By the end of the internship, they should be better equipped to step up into an entry-level events position, either within the firm or with someone else. With strict US Dept of Labor rules in the US and intern labor laws in Canada and the UK, the company (technically) shouldn’t necessarily benefit directly from working with interns…the joy of being a mentor is benefit enough.
What is your advice to interns looking to apply for a position?
Connect with your local SEPA and ISES (International Special Events Society) chapters and get plugged in by volunteering to assist at their next monthly meeting. It’s a great way to get connected with events professionals and learn about internship positions that might be available. Plus, it gives you great experience and builds your network…it’s a win-win! People are so much more likely to hire someone they know or someone who comes highly recommended by a colleague. Trust me, it’s totally worth it!
BONUS to mentors: if you’re thinking about starting your own internship program or want to take your existing one to the next level, you’ll need a great internship opportunity write-up. This gives your intern candidates a clear understanding of what the job description is, the overall tasks/responsibilities and general requirements for the position. If you would like to receive a FREE copy of our template, simply email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and mention “EventsUncovered TV sent me! – Internship Opportunity Write-up” in the subject line. This template is valued at $197 USD and it’s a gift from me to you!
Mary Baird-Wilcock, CSEP is the CEO and Senior Event Planner at The Simplifiers, an award-winning full-service event planning firm. She was recently selected as one of the “Top 25 Young Event Pros to Watch” globally by Special Events Magazine. Mary also serves as a Director-at-Large for the Board of Governors of the International Special Events Society, leading 5000+ members worldwide in 53 chapters of events professionals in global events education. She recently launched The Apprentice Program, which helps mentors train interns in all the critical topics of event planning.