Should you offer internships at your startup?

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This article is a crosspost with Nuwait.

You have excellent college grades, solid cover letter, stellar resume, and dozens of recommendations. But there is just one thing standing between you and that dream job: work experience.

Landing a job right after college is not easy. Employers often get discouraged when interviewing someone who has no field experience.

To bridge the gap between acquiring the right work skills and finding a suitable job, companies and startups around the world are adopting programs where interns may become full-time hires at later stages.

In Kuwait, where finding talent is a challenge to many entrepreneurs, internship programs have become an effective hiring tool.

Bader Al Issa from Myu. (Image via Bader Al Issa)

“I believe that by providing such a program, I am giving back to our community,” said Khalid Al-Mutawa, cofounder at Studenthub, a platform that connects graduates to potential employers. “One of our interns (a university student) has been with us for the past two years, and with the experience he's gained with us he definitely stands out when compared with his classmates.”

Bader Al Issa from student communication app Myu, says he works closely with students until they graduate, to see if they fit as employees. “Those who possess a great added value to our startup, and are willing to work at a small enterprise, we consider hiring them,” he told Nuwait.

What’s in it for you?

Aside from finding a new way to scout talent, offering internship programs adds a fresh perspective. “People who join an organization can usually provide new ideas and energy and create the change that you very much need as a startup/SME,” said Al-Mutawa.

This fresh perspective allows for more innovation and change within the startup structure, which is usually very dynamic. “Interns normally are very ambitious, flexible, and energetic in nature. Those traits fit well with the sort of energy any startup needs to have.”

Nizar Wannous, founder of gifting app Dizly, agrees.“They're full of energy and not exposed to the noise and politics of the corporate world. Their enthusiasm is unmatched,” he said. “It is always an added value to witness their contribution and input on the platforms and solutions we are building.”

High hopes for ‘K’ town

Finding interns is solving one piece of the puzzle. The other piece consists of making these interns believe in the bigger mission of the startup and convincing them to stay rather than going after a high-paid government job. For that, employers or entrepreneurs should make interns feel welcomed and appreciated, according to Al-Mutawa.  

Khalid Al-Mutawa, at work on Studenthub. (Image via Studenthub)

“An employee must embrace the mission of the startup at heart, and it's the task of the organisation to provide the environment that allows for this sort of responsibility to be felt,” he added.

For that mindset to be articulated, interns should be given a sense of ownership to some extent, though they won’t be expected to work as hard as the owners or full time employees, told us Wannous.

“They have to belong and fight the battle until the end. It's the joy of the ride not the comfort of the eight hours. We escape the 40 hour work week to work 80 hours because we enjoy it.”

Nizar Wannous of Dizly. (Image via Dizly)

Incentives for retaining employees could be anything from internal promotion, ensuring employees take time off, investing money on personal growth and capacity building and offering share options. 

A 2009 McKinsey study - though old - proves that potential employees are not only seeking good salaries. The study showed that employees or potential employees are better motivated when offered non-monetary incentives such as praise from the manager, attention from leaders and a chance to manage projects.

The study’s survey reveals that 67 percent of respondents preferred praise over bonuses, 63 percent preferred attention from leaders over a salary increase, and 62 percent wanted opportunities to lead projects over stock options.

Providing a flexible working environment, with an option to work remotely, will also encourage interns and make them feel at ease.

“When you’ve become a great employer and you get your vision out there so everybody knows what you’re building, that’s when it’s an easy market to find great employees,” said Al-Mutawa quoting author Cameron Herold. Herold is the author of Double Double, a step-by-step guide on how to grow a company and make it profitable.

Kuwait has high hopes for its citizens and while many still prefer the comfort of a corporate job, working with a startup and eventually launching one, will provide self-satisfaction for the long-term.

“It is an exciting time to be living in,” concluded Wannous. “I hope more and more graduates change their minds about the corporate life, and take the risks while they still can. Who knows, we could witness the next Zuck out of K town.”

Feature image via Qualtrics.

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