HOW TO GET AN INTERN

The Problem: There is something that you need to do to be successful but you can't do it yourself or pay someone to do it...so you're stuck. 

The Solution: You're actually not stuck. There is a high schooler or college student who has the skills you need. You have some sort of experience that that person can learn from. You need to get connected with that them and offer them an internship. In exchange, you can be their mentor. 

The Facts:

1. You Have Strengths: I promise. There is at least one entrepreneurial task that you know how to do very well. Maybe all you know how to do is talk to strangers, but you're terrible at follow up. There's an intern for that (probably a shy, nerdy, spreadsheet-y one). Maybe you are great at graphic design but can't write copy. There's an intern for that (dramatic emotional writer type who thinks they can create visuals but really needs you to re-teach them) . Regardless of how low your self-worth is, I guarantee that there is an intern who thinks you are magic because their weakness is the one thing that you know how to do. So give yourself some credit and take an inventory of your skillset. 

2. You're Only a Few Degrees Away From Your Future Intern: Maybe you don't interact with young people on a daily basis. Maybe you don't have any friends with kids. Maybe you're completely disconnected from younger generations. You shouldn't cold call high schools or youth organizations whining about how you don't understand social media and want one of "the youths" to fix it. But you should accept the fact that you can probably find someone who knows someone who knows your ideal intern. But how? Keep reading. 

3. You Have Time to Volunteer: You do I promise. There are organizations that will accept one hour of your time and call it a day. Sure, some require more of a commitment. But most non-profits are flexible and it's more important that they know you will show up when and where you say that you will than that you have a ton of free time for them. What are the non-profit organizations that work with high schoolers and college students in your area? Where are high schoolers and college students volunteering THEIR time? Volunteer there. It's best to pick an organization that matches up with your skill set, but in the meantime, volunteer anywhere. Why? Because it builds trust. Offer your time to a local nonprofit or public benefit corporation (ideally one that requires you to pass a background check and pays for it themselves). Once you establish a reputation within that community (to clarify, you will need to actually do a good job volunteering first), you can start sharing what you do and talking about your desire to mentor someone. And once again, you do have time to volunteer. You have time to scroll through social media posts. You have time to binge watch Netflix. You can volunteer one hour of your time somewhere, especially if you're doing it strategically and looking to find team members. 

My personal recommendations for volunteering in ATX: $tart Up Kids Club (kids starting their own business), Generation SERVE (family volunteer experiences), Swan Songs (concerts for hospice patients). 

4. You Can Listen to People: You are important and your project is important, but when you meet new people, you don't need to tell them everything about that right away. I know from experience that this can overwhelm them. So ask them about their life. Just as you have a passion that drives you, EVERY PERSON you meet has something that they love and want to talk about. Ask questions and be interested in the people around you, and they will naturally want to help you out. You don't have to do this perfectly, but leading by listening is the best way to gain trust in a new community.  If you have a specific high school or college student who you want to work with and are not sure the best way to utilize them, try asking them what they hope to learn and what they love to do. Make it worth their while by checking in about possible school credit, volunteer hours, or promising letters of recommendations or introductions to potential employers.

5. You Need Specific Help: Do not bring on an intern without having specific tasks or values for them to support. Just as you were honest about your strengths, be honest about your weaknesses. I am not encouraging you to act on the impulse of "I am so busy and an intern can fix it." That's not fair to the poor high schooler or college student who gives you a shot. Give clear guidelines and also space for feedback and growth. Some of the best things in my projects have happened when I have let interns tell me that I am wrong and done it their way instead. Write job descriptions, even if those job descriptions are malleable. Write up a description of the internship position as a short paragraph or a half page pdf. As you are out in the community and meeting people, ask them if they know anyone who would be interested in interning with you on a specific project that you're working on. Then send them a description of the internship that they can pass on to that student. 

How I Know: I have been running large scale community based projects in Connecticut, Texas and the Caribbean for several years. I have never done this with a large budget or financially wealthy sponsors. Instead, I leverage my strengths, my network, my time, my listening skills and my knowledge of my needs to make these things happen. I am currently producing an original musical in Austin, Texas, and I have 2 interns and 10 volunteers contributing to the project. My UT intern is so good that when she got sick before an event she sent her roommate in her place, and then her roommate joined our volunteer team! 

Action Steps: Sign up as a volunteer with one my partner nonprofits and my interns will put you into a raffle to receive free tickets to my original musical Isabel & the Runaway Train.  You can also follow Isabel & the Runaway Train on instagram to see an example of my UT intern leveraging her strength (social media management) to fill in my weakness and support my strength (community building). 

So that's my advice. I hope it helps.

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Anna Westbrook "The author with a little bit of everything."