What could a Summer Intern do for you app development or marketing?

Summer’s almost here and this provides you an opportunity to find a college student to work with you as an intern. Internships and apprenticeships both work, they are very much the same if packaged a little differently. The point is you are providing someone a chance to get some hands on work experience, fill some space on their resume, a professional referral and possibly make some money. Here are some considerations and ideas for you to consider to help everyone get a win-win experience with internships.


There are a variety of ways your program can be framed and there are legal considerations for how you define it. It is appropriate to understand that there are both paid and unpaid internship programs, apprenticeships, commission-based only sales jobs, independent contractors, and other forms of agreements to include unpaid consultancies. Legal considerations apply to each that you will need to research specific to your country, but in most cases you can structure conditions to meet those requirements. The main considerations include:

  • Compensation. Again, you will need to consult your local laws regarding unpaid internship programs. It is appropriate to note that training, experience, professional references alone can be valuable commodities depending upon the local job market.
  • Supervision.  A considerable degree of supervision is if not necessary, certainly desirable, but that could be defined simply as having instant messaging via Skype. You need someone with experience to be on hand to answer questions as they arise and provide contextual references.
  • Training materials.  If you intend to run an internship or apprenticeship program frequently, it is practical to create (and retain) reference materials as needed. This may involve an overview of the company, products and services, team members, essential company mission/positioning statements, frequently asked questions, technical manuals, and so forth. These are all good to have “anyways”.
  • Workload. It could be part-time, full-time, flex-time, completely informal, at an office or work from home – defined formally or left completely to a “whatever you want to do” basis.

To what end? Why would you want a trainee or intern?

Speaking specifically for mobile app developers, there is a lot of information to take in regardless what your technical position is – whether on the programming or marketing side. There’s far more that you could be doing, should be doing, but probably aren’t. Getting a little bit of help on these things can go a long way. Examples:

  • Let’s say you would like to expand your distribution network. After showing your sidekick how to add your app to one mobile store, they can proceed to add it to several others. The same could apply to setting up a different promotion for your app on each store.
  • Testing apps. You should have a beta test team, so you can assign your trainees tasks such as organizing bug reports, testing your patches prior to sending out new versions to beta testers, or if they are programmers, to see if they can identify the erring code.
  • Starting something new for you. It could be that after their orientation to your company, you would ask them what they would do in areas that you are not doing – to develop an action plan. That’s good homework! It could apply to how they would manage your social networking, advertising or any of your marketing activities.

Compensation Options

Most app developers are not breaking even as it is, so some sort of paid internship program may seem completely out of reach. As the saying goes, “It takes money to make money” – albeit with enough time, you can make money, too. That’s how business goes – businesses have employees as their time enables the business to make more money.

As noted earlier, there are multiple options to exactly how you might define and structure an internship program and to varying extents, it may end up being nothing like an internship program. Nevertheless, there are people out there willing to work, who do not have jobs, who would like one – so any effort to create a job is favorable on its own merit.

There are a few things that should be absolutely provided.  One is a letter of recommendation – three originals preferably on high quality paper, defining and thanking them for their work, and signed by you.    This would also be good to provide in PDF format.  A recommendation on LinkedIn with points for each of the areas they worked on with you.  An understanding that they can use you as a professional reference with confidence that you will provide them a positive referral.  An personal, verbal thank you.

Of course, if their contribution was less than one would expect, these recommendations and referrals are probably best set aside.

Notes for Prospective Interns and Other Job Seekers

It’s not always easy to find a job.  Sometimes it takes extra initiative when the “standard and customary” methods are not working – like applying for jobs behind a line of hundreds of other applicants.   Job hunting is not easy, it is not fun, it is usually not particularly fast.  In some areas of the United States, people have been out of work for so long they have stopped looking.

Consider the plight of the entrepreneur — who will frequently invest lots of their own time and money just to do what they want to do.  Like it or not, you are an entrepreneur – the only question is whether you are applying to it… perhaps not to create your own business, but maybe just to get a job that you like and are good at.

Between social networking and the various Q&A boards, not to mention LinkedIn, you have the option to approach those you know – and perhaps some you don’t – to give your skills the opportunity to do something for you and them.   If you are good at what you do and can do better than what they are doing, or you can show that you can make them money – you simply need to talk to the owner, avoiding large companies with hiring managers.

If you are new to the job market or to the industry itself, you are likely to be looking for a mentor who can facilitate getting you some hands on training or experience and can help pave the way for your next job.

Be clear with any terms you may have – if you have any expectation of pay, you need to make that clear.  But if it is the difference of showing what you can do for the potential of getting a job vs. never getting past the first interview, taking the extra initiative can be very useful.

Project Manager at the Opera Mobile Store providing Sales-Marketing support. Content development and research.

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