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Reinventing a corporate culture within the print industry requires fresh ideas. In an industry steeped in tradition (that’s Latin for bad habits and baggage) my suggestion to CEO’s, VP’s and other schmoes like me out there is to look to youth.

I put together an internship program about 5 years ago and am constantly speaking to students in my quest to find our next superstar. Last night I attended the first meeting of our local university’s Career Center Executive Council. As an invited member and big proponent of hiring interns, I was brought in to suggest ways to help the university (Sonoma State University) to get the word out about the advantages of hiring youth. Along with a dozen other community leaders from Sonoma County, we are to act as ambassadors for Sonoma State University’s internship program. I was quite impressed to hear that other leaders had similar experiences to my own and all within much different industries.

When I have discussed hiring interns with other leaders, they quite often will focus on the drawbacks of hiring interns. However, with some careful planning and interviewing I have had very positive results.

First of all, it is important to point out: Not all interns are created equal and interviewing them is very important. Additionally, remember when considering this strategy, make sure you are putting the intern’s personality and abilities into the right job requirement. I learned both of these lessons the hard way.

I’m confident that there are other benefits, but here is what I have learned:
  • Interns are willing to do just about anything to learn about business. Even the most rudimentary tasks can embody a lesson.
  • While I believe paid internships are more effective, in many geographical areas internships can be free or for school credit. That said, even the paid internships are very inexpensive and if you get the right person, it is extremely cost-effective.
  • For me personally, the most important benefit of hiring an intern is that they are untainted by many of life’s boundaries. If they haven’t been too spoiled by conformity, they tend to naturally think outside the box. They don’t worry about convention. If managed well, they can be very inspirational and serve as a sort of caffeine jolt to the other members of your team.

The only major downside for us is committing the time to spend with the intern. Again, interviewing and placing the student in the right role is key.

It’s been 5 years since I started our internship program and I see it as one of the most influential catalysts in reinventing and reinvigorating our business. By the way, sales have tripled over the last 4 years.

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