Walk onto any university campus at this time of year and there is a quiet energy that pervades – students are beginning to consider their options for part-time jobs, summer internships, co-ops, and full-time employment. Startups benefit in a multitude of ways when bringing students on-board; however, it is important to consider how young talent will best be integrated into the daily life of a growing venture.
Here are some best practices to fully engage the potential of students in a dynamic startup environment:
- Have a plan. Assess needs and write a thorough job description that highlights the responsibilities that the student will take ownership of. Don’t be too general. Students want to know what they will be expected to accomplish and how they will make an impact. Students hired to work in a startup will need to be able to pivot, just as a startup does.
- Are you ready? Mentorship is an important benefit young professionals consider when evaluating an employment opportunity. Identify who will mentor each new hire. From answering their questions as they on-board, providing developmental feedback, discussing their learning and career development to simply having lunch and checking-in on a regular basis. Mentoring is an important investment – like a savings account, the more you invest the more you earn. If senior level folks are not willing to mentor, then hiring young talent may not be a strategy to add needed headcount.
- Make a commitment and have candidates meet the team. Time is a commodity. The time involved in hiring is an investment and the hiring process can sometimes feel like a burden. There can be a temptation to put the student hiring process on the back burner, when conflicting priorities arise. Set a few hours/days each week for interviews/hiring follow-up. Schedule time into everyone’s calendar to meet candidates, and don’t allow staff to cancel. “Fit” is an important factor for small teams, and all team members who will work with the student should be part of the conversation.
- Set expectations and then observe. Provide a framework of expectations to the student including workplace guidelines – and evaluate their performance through informal conversations or a year-end review. Most importantly, give young talent the room to take a deep dive into their work so that their talents and strengths can be recognized and best utilized to innovate. When possible, adjust their role/responsibilities so that they are stretching just beyond their capability – challenging them to learn and benefiting the venture.
As Cooperative Education Faculty at Northeastern University, my colleagues and I have successfully partnered with hundreds of startups across the United States and the globe. Startups have testified to the value students have brought to their ventures through the experiential implementation of students’ classroom learning. Coupled with their energy, enthusiasm, and fresh perspective, students have used their global, innovative, and professional mindsets to take startups to a new level. Here at Northeastern, the On Fire to Hire Startup Expo is an excellent showcase of our students’ talent.