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How Are Your College Interns Performing?

If you work in Communications, Marketing, Community Relations or Member Services, shrinking budgets are an unfortunate fact of life. And, typically, smaller budgets come with higher program goals. To succeed, managers of those departments have learned to squeeze a penny so hard that Lincoln cries.

Resourceful utilities are increasingly turning to college interns as a low-cost resource to get the job done. With a little training, a college-age student could be the right person to manage your website, post to your social media platforms, draft copy or figure out new ways to reach your hard-to-reach customer groups, like Millennials, low-income customers, ethnic businesses or those whose native language is not English.

Almost every utility has an institution of higher learning in or near its service area. Reach out to faculty members in the Communications, English, Marketing or Business Administration departments. Although undergraduate or graduate students in those departments might not be considering a career in the utility industry, per se, they could be a valuable resource for utilities. The solution you seek might be right in front of you!

College interns don't know as much as employees in their 30s. But they also don't have the self-imposed limitations that people unconsciously begin to apply to themselves after they enter the workforce. They've never been told, "That's not the way we do things here." They're open to experimentation. They want to learn new skills. They're not afraid to ask, "Why can't we try it this way?"

And, of course, 20-somethings cost a whole lot less than 30-somethings, never mind 40-somethings. Funding for a half-time professional job will probably get you six part-time college interns over the course of a year. Think of the productivity gains!

The next time you're tempted to bemoan your shrinking budgets and rising targets, instead, pick up the phone and call your local institutions of higher learning. If you don't have one, go to the local high school. You may find the answer to your problem is only a few miles away.

Read the first and third articles in the series "Are You Planning to Fail?" & "Print is Not Dead?"

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