Forever Young: Finding Interns and Keeping Them

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I’m approaching my mid-thirties y’all. It’s a blessing. I’m old enough to have made some mistakes and learn from them. I’m young enough to be able to relate to the behavior and interests of high school and college students.

Our firm is growing. We need help from driven young people who have a passion for learning. is an excellent resource for people who want to find internships. They also do a good job giving information on learning how to be an effective intern. I had the pleasure of speaking with Katie Reilly and Anna Drozdowski from Intern Like A Rockstar. Scroll to the bottom of this post to read our Q&A with them.

Empower your interns. At Nao, we’re not big on titles so you might want to come up with a unique title for them. We are clear on roles and responsibilities for our team members. We like to make sure our interns have a core focus, but we don’t look to pigeonhole them into one area. An intern can start in one role and it can mutate over time into a hybrid role that uniquely compliments their skillset.

Be patient with interns. They will make mistakes. Allow them to make blunders that won’t severely damage the company. In the book Zilch by Nancy Lublin, she speaks about a business owner who allows for an average of 30 mistakes by interns. Now that’s patience.

Find interns who love learning. Support their love for learning by feeding information via books and timely blogs/articles.

Have fun. Don’t make it all about work. Support your intern by showing interest in their hobbies and passions. Our newest intern, Kayla, loves the performing arts. Two recent Nao interns, Jonathan and Brandon, have an affinity for basketball. I make a point to try to stay up-to-date with Kayla’s performances and to talk plenty of hoops with Jonathan and Brandon. For unpaid interns (even some paid ones), give them thoughtful tokens of appreciation that relates to their passions.

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Q&A with Katie Reilly and Anna Drozdowski from

Chris Craft: What resources are out there for businesses who want to post openings for interns?

Katie Reilly – ILARS: There are of course sites like Indeed, LinkedIn, etc. There are also media/entertainment industry specific options like, which I know a lot of big companies use and sites like and do postings as well. I think those are especially good for summer internships, because it is easier in the summer to get interns from all over the country when students are out of school. During the school year, it is a good idea to connect with regional programs and colleges that can help you find great local talent. A lot of degree programs require internships and some even have more extensive co-op programs, like Drexel University, Georgia Institute of Technology, and Northeastern University, so it can be helpful to build relationships with their career offices and program directors. Of course, we have free internship listings on Intern Like A Rockstar too!

CC: How can bosses show appreciation to unpaid interns?

Anna Drozdowski – ILARS: I think that #1 may actually be giving them at least one meaty, hands-on task during their internship. It’s understood that most of your job in an internship these days is going to be the grunt work that nobody else wants to do. But, it really feels great when you’re given a real project to work on. It’s certainly understandable that people need interns because they’re busy and so they don’t have a ton of time to teach, but your best interns really do want to learn something while they’re there. Otherwise, I think that small things like CDs, tshirts, or concert tickets (depending on the type of company) are appreciated. Personally, I had some more out-of-the-ordinary experiences. My work at NARM lead up to getting to go to the Convention in various cities (I’ve gotten to go to Los Angeles, Chicago, San Diego, Orlando and San Francisco as a result). At WEA, I got to go to a benefit dinner at the Hammerstein Ballroom in NY with my boss and a few VPs/SVPs as his way of saying thank you. They even sent me home in a town car (I was commuting 2 1/2 hours every day, each way by bus to intern there so the town car that evening was an AMAZING treat)! I think if it’s a company that has a lot of contact to artists, it’s really memorable if there’s an opportunity to let the intern meet one of their favorite artists when they’re in town. I got to go to Jason Mraz’s sound check at a NARM Convention and meet him, for example. Depending on circumstances, that can be a free token of appreciation that will last that person a lifetime.

KR – ILARS: Keep in mind that interns are there because they want to learn from your success. Most of them are excited to have this opportunity, but it can be difficult to work without pay when the work you are doing can seem very trivial at times. A lot of interns just want to feel like their work is having an impact. So, saying thank you, providing positive feedback, pointing out where an intern’s efforts contributed to the success of a project, and explaining how the seemingly small tasks the intern might be doing contribute to the bigger picture can really help someone feel valued and appreciated.

CC: How important is structure for internship programs?

KR – ILARS: An internship program doesn’t necessarily need to be structured in a very formal way. However, there should be open communication and solid guidelines regarding rules, expectations, deadlines, how tasks are assigned, how evaluations take place, and the larger goals of the internship program so that everyone is on the same page. Minimally, I think it is a good idea to prepare some initial rules (office dress code,company policies), a guide on basic office procedures (such as how to appropriately answer the phone, how to use the fax machine), and basic information on the business as well as its important clients and key employees. The most important thing though is to establish a clear line of communication and be sure the intern feels comfortable asking questions and knows when it is or isn’t okay to approach you. For example, do you prefer interns talk to you in person or via email? Is it alright to knock on your door if it is closed? Lastly, and this sounds odd, but don’t forget to tell the interns when and how lunch works because you would be surprised how easy it is to overlook and you don’t want to have a hungry intern too nervous to ask when lunch is.

CC: Are there any good books for business owners who want to learn how to create an internship program?

KR – ILARS: Great question! I actually did some searching on Amazon to check because there aren’t any that I am aware of, but I couldn’t find any. Currently, our site,, focuses mainly on helping students, but clearly there is a need for information to help companies as well. So, I think that is something we can work on adding. I’m in the process of writing my own book / guide about internships, so perhaps I can include that as well. In the mean time, if there are any companies that need some help setting up a program, feel free to contact us, we’d be glad to help. You can email me at

CC: How can interns recover from a major mistake during their internship?

KR – ILARS: In most cases, it is best to admit your mistake and own it as soon as you realize you have made one. It is far easier to fix and is the mature and professional way to handle the situation. You may to work a little harder to re-establish trust but your boss will likely respect you more in the end. Plus, if you try to hide it, you will likely get caught anyway. The good news is that while it is possible for an intern to make a big enough mistake to get fired, employers are generally more forgiving and understanding because they know you are there to learn.

CC: What are some signs of a potentially horrible intern that business owner can look out for?

AD – ILARS: My biggest intern pet peeve is interns that have an odd sense of entitlement. They may seem confident at first, but this intern is cocky and thinks that they’re better than the small tasks that you’re giving them. While they could be brilliant, everyone has to start somewhere, so you’re not going to get the most glamorous jobs as an intern and they need to understand that. Having an attitude will not get you very far as an intern. And sometimes that cockiness will end up being costly for a company. If an intern takes too much initiative without the knowledge and experience to back up their decision, they could make a very serious mistake. Then they need to see your previous question! Conversely, great intern traits are someone who’s a team player and who’s willing to do the small tasks. In time, bigger tasks and projects will come.

Other than that, being lazy / poor work ethic come to mind. Poor communication skills is a big one, too. If your intern will be answering your company’s phone, having a miserable/curt phone demeanor is never desirable. Neither is using “like” every other word or using texting abbreviations in email correspondence or speech. I definitely cringed when I had an intern that asked panel speakers to send their “pix.” While this person is new and inexperienced, they should have a baseline of professionalism if they are having any contact with the outside world on your behalf.

KR – ILARS: The signs of a bad intern are probably similar to what you would look for in a potential employee. Do they have a professional writing skills, are they polite and respectful, do they take the application process seriously, do they seem to think they are entitled, do they respond promptly, are they on time? Even if they don’t have past internship experience, things like involvement in school activities or a decent GPA can show that they are motivated and hard working. Also, these days it is easy to find people online and see what they have on Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. In a way, At this point, anyone applying for a job or internship should expect that they are going to be Googled and they should do their best to ensure the results will be positive.

CC: Any internship seeking tips for older people? (30 years and over)

AD – ILARS: I think that depends on the situation of the individual more than age, per se. If the 30 year old is in graduate school, then I think their experience plus their student status would be beneficial to them in contrast to a totally green intern. However, a lot of internship programs require that you receive college credit to be eligible to intern there (for legal reasons, since most music internships are unpaid), so you’re going to have a really difficult time finding something if you’re not in school in some capacity. Other than that, I would say networking. Go to as many networking events as possible. The more people that know and like you, the better your odds of one of those people offering you an opportunity to intern with them or recommending you to an intern opportunity that they know about through one of their contacts.

KR – ILARS: I know this job market is incredibly tough and internships do give you opportunities to network and gain experience. If you aren’t in college and want to do an internship, you may need to contact companies directly because the online postings will likely say “for college credit only.” That doesn’t mean there aren’t options, but you may need to work a bit harder to find them. In addition, if you plan to do an internship, you will likely need to do a lot work you may feel is beyond you now, like getting coffee or organizing files. So be ready for that and don’t be afraid to do the work.

About the Author

Chris Craft is a Christian, husband, father, and the author of The Foundation: Branding for Successful Real Estate Professionals and O.P.E.N. Routine: Four Components to Personal Branding Excellence. As the founder of content creation agency Nao Media, Chris helps churches and businesses produce written content and have better conversations with their members and stakeholders. Chris is also the host of The Chris Craft Show, which helps its listeners renew their mind with edifying stories and insights.