This article was originally posted via Inc.
As the co-founder of an educational consulting company, I'm often asked by parents and students the single biggest tip for getting into college. Do SAT and ACT scores help? Sure. And a stellar GPA? Well, that's a given. But beyond that, what sets a student apart?
The answer might surprise you.
Work, I tell them -- work of any kind (and not just homework). Interning, babysitting, waitressing, ice cream scooping...all work works. Work teaches grit, instills perspective, and cultivates passion.
In my organization, we practice what we preach. We don't just encourage students to work--once they've completed our program, we sometimes employ them too. The advantages of our internship program are twofold. Not only do students build their resumes and gain perspective into how our organization works, but as a business owner, I also reap the benefits of their presence. Here's how to go beyond "busy work" and make the most of your interns.
Get the "Gritty" Stuff Done
"Grit" is a buzzword in education these days, and there's no better way for a student to demonstrate this illustrious trait to colleges than by getting a job. Founders can appreciate this, I'm sure. Most entrepreneurs have done their fair share of grunt work over the years. As a business owner, elevate those "nitty gritty" tasks into opportunities to teach grit. No job is too small, we tell our interns. And it's true. My co-founder and I embody this in the way we run our office. I've been known to work behind the reception desk when an employee calls in sick, and my partner is not above taking out the garbage when it's overflowing. The presence of an intern can serve as a valuable reminder and reset your company culture.
I firmly believe that every businessperson should work in a service job at one time or another. Whether or not your intern's role is client facing, give them access to the service side of your business. Learning about the nuances of service creates more compassionate future bosses and consumers. But don't just ask your interns to observe. Solicit their feedback and find out about the most positive service interactions they've have in their lives outside of work. Oftentimes interns and founders straddle different generations, and as technology advances, the definition of service also changes. Interns can help bridge that divide.
Create Your Own Focus Groups
We use our interns to test our software and conduct interviews with users. The benefit to the interns is invaluable. Gaining an understanding of UI/UX is a huge asset from an employability standpoint. For our company, the advantages are equally significant. Through our interns, we essentially have the opportunity to create our own focus groups and can even share new iterations of our software as the internship season progresses. Plus, when they're administering user interviews, our interns are unbiased and singularly committed to eliciting the most honest responses.
It's easy to write interns off as "just kids" and direct them straight to an Excel spreadsheet, but that would be a mistake. Take it from someone who spends most of her day with high school students. You just might be surprised by what they have to teach you.