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#71: Can an Independent Consultant Effectively Use an Intern?

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Sunday, June 14, 2009
Updated: Monday, June 15, 2009
I have been getting inquiries from college students about available internships. Having never considered using an intern, I am wondering whether or not this is a good use of my time.

There are two considerations at play here. One is what services you are receiving from an intern to help your business, whether building up your practice or supporting client work. There are several areas in which an intern can leverage your time or create content. For example, an intern can research prospects or industries you have targeted, or maybe edit your initial reports of findings, or do draft (or final if this is their skills) documents or graphics for presentations. Another set of eyes (and perspective) is almost always a good idea, even if they are not as experienced as you are.

The second consideration, which isn't so obvious, is what managing an intern can do for your own skills and abilities as a consultant. Many consultants dismiss the idea of using an intern because "I don't have the time to train or supervise someone." This is a false economy in two ways. First, although true that you will invest time to get them up to speed, this is an excellent test of your clarity of thinking about your methodologies, knowledge and perceptions. How effectively you teach and train an intern is a good measure of how well you know your subject matter. Second, it is a good test of your priorities. Your decision on which projects to put your intern is also a way to refine your business priorities. Is your marketing pipeline more important than next week's deliverable or do you most need to look into a speaking opportunities? The discipline required to manage an intern makes you a better consultant.

Tip: Summer is the usual time when interns are most available but college students (even graduate students) are often looking for part time work. Many students in business, engineering, finance, design, and planning can provide skills and insights into the the latest technologies, techniques and subject matter that you wouldn't necessarily have access to. Plus, they might just be a new hire for you in the future.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  learning  practice management  teaming 

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