Hiring an intern
Back in March 2022, I attended a networking event (The Nudge Ideas Festival) in Exeter and got chatting to some other small business owners about how I was thinking about hiring someone to support me. Whilst some people looked at me like I was a mad woman for wanting to employ staff, a lady I know well told me about how she had hired an intern and what a massive impact that had on her business, and how years after that internship ended, they remained friends. The seed was sown. At that same event, I met Andrea Hodges from Exeter University who told me all about the internship schemes at the university.
The process of decision making around whether to hire lay initially around the finances and legal aspects. I wanted to be clear on what my obligations were, get all the HR elements in place (contracts, handbooks, policies etc) and be clear on the related costs for those. I also needed to understand my obligations around pension payments, PAYE and national insurance as well as the costs for my accountant to set this up and manage it on a monthly basis. Finally, I needed to be clear on the tasks I wanted them to do and how many hours a month I could afford to pay someone.
By April of 2022 I had spoken to my accountant and a HR Consultant and had decided to give it a go. I decided initially to recruit for a 3-month contract term, so that if I decided that employing someone was not for me after all, then it was not a huge commitment.
Doing the recruitment through Exeter University meant that I was supporting a local institution, and also I had the support of the Internships Team – their role is around helping university students to gain meaningful work experience during their studies. They helped me write the job description and decide on the best time to advertise the role, and in May 2022 I interviewed and appointed my first intern, and here my learning began.
I was used to working online with my team, but as contractors and more experienced VAs, I didn’t need to be that hands on, but I was well aware that having managed admin teams in the past that I would need to have much more contact and oversight. Working with Rosalia meant that there were so many tasks that I was just not getting around to, that finally got done – for example an A to Z of starting a small business which had been on my to-do list for years!! It was all going well but due to annual leave and Rosalia being a 1st year student, she was unable to do as many hours as I had hoped for and so we ended the contract after 6 months.
I had learned what was important to me, I needed someone who had more time to support me and could manage their time well, and prioritise. Whilst I had thought a 1st year student would be ideal as there was the opportunity to work with them for 3 or 4 years if they enjoyed the role, I realised that I needed someone with more work experience.
I approached the University about another of the candidates who had really impressed me, she was now a final year student, and fortunately she was still interested in coming to work with me. Daniela had started her own business in Columbia and also had experience in prior intern roles. She started with us in October 2022 and it has been a fantastic experience. Having an employee working remotely is different to working with my associate team and it was important for me to be able to spend time with Daniela, so she came along to networking events and award ceremonies with me (we won Small Business Of The Year at the Devon Women in Business Awards in November 2022). Through this we were able to get to know one another more and build on our relationship. She has fired through the to-lists and supported not only me and the team but I have also been able to give her the opportunity to support our clients too.
Here’s some feedback that Daniela had from one of our lovely clients.
I was struggling with regular posting on social media and ensuring that our posts aligned with our brand’s style and image. I met Joanne via a networking group and approached her to see if she and her team could help, and she introduced me to Daniela. I delegated the task of daily Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn posts in the lead-up to a crucial competition, as well as the creation of a newsletter. Working with Daniela has saved me a significant amount of time and headspace. My business now presents a more professional image, which has made a noticeable difference, in terms of an increase in engagement and followers on our social media platforms.
This has made me feel more in control of my business and its online presence. For entrepreneurs looking to manage their workload and maintain their sanity, I highly recommend giving a virtual assistant a try. If you don’t have the luxury of a dedicated team, a VA could make a real impact on your workflow and overall business success.
Daniela has now graduated from Exeter University with a 1st in Management with Marketing and won the coveted Student Employee of the Year in the Exeter University Employment Awards 2022. Daniela has also written a blog about her experience of the internship, which you can read here.
One of Daniela’s final tasks was to help me recruit her replacement. It was hugely helpful in shortlisting the candidates to draw on Daniela’s experience of being an intern and the skills she needed to make a success of the role. What was also important to me was working with someone who had already gained some business experience and was in their 2nd or 3rd year of their studies, meaning that they were more confident in being able to manage their time and had lots to bring to the role.
Last week we were over the moon to offer the role to Maddy. Maddy is studying Psychology and has in the past worked in the conservation field as a videographer for Game Rangers International, a role she still works part time. She also co-founded a Zambian football academy, a non profit organisation that supports underprivileged children in Lusaka, Zambia. I’m really excited to see what Maddy will bring to the role and what changes we will see as a result of her internship with us. Have a read of her first blog about her expectations of the internship.
I can’t recommend working with an intern enough, it has been amazing and inspiring working with such incredible young people and I’m looking forward to the next chapter.
If you are interested in hiring an intern, do get in touch with me or the Exeter University Internships Team on firstname.lastname@example.org. If your role is remote, you don’t need to be based near Exeter to hire an intern from the University.