“All I need is an opportunity to prove myself. Just one business to give me a chance to showcase that I have what it takes to exceed their expectations and emerge as a strong human resources professional in their company.”

These were my exact thoughts eight years ago when I was in my final year at Liberty University and frantically applying to countless internships throughout Central Virginia. With limited regional internship opportunities in my field of study, that opportunity never came for me, and it ultimately detoured my career path. At the time, I had major doubts that I may ever fully use my human resources management degree. Understandably, my heart goes out to recent graduates and rising upperclassman who have seen a massive amount of internship opportunities cancelled or postponed in the wake of COVID-19.

As our businesses and organizations look to reset in 2021, it will be important for many of us to consider this challenge and review the tremendous benefits that a strong internship can provide, including finding the right talent for your company. While internship opportunities may be declining, the pool of exceptional would-be interns is rising. This could be the ideal time to find the best intern for your company.

Community Partnerships Matter

Building relationships with community organizations and leaders is a key aspect of a successful internship program. Of course, you can create, recruit, and staff for an internship by yourself. However, you will be missing out on the incredible wealth of resources, programs, and grants that are available in Central Virginia to encourage businesses to take on internships and work experiences for a wide range of industries and occupations.

At my company, Intercon, I have partnered with Virginia Career Works, Central Virginia Community College, Virginia Department for Aging & Rehabilitative Services, local public high schools, and local university professors to name a few. In my conversations with each of their representatives, it is crystal clear that they are all worried about their students and clients as businesses remain reluctant to staff at normal levels due to the pandemic.

More Than Just Grunt Work

As a human resources professional, I wholeheartedly believe there is not a perfect formula to staffing. Yes, several factors can lead you to finding the ideal candidate. However, a potential hire can have the best resume and overall experience, but just may not be a good fit for your organization. Some of the best hires I have made in my organization are individuals who are looking for a career rather than chasing the best paycheck, are determined to learn and grow, and are excited to make a visible impact on an organization. They are driven with a “go-getter” mentality that truly sets them apart.

Interns have long been portrayed as workers who do the tasks that no one else wants to do. To a certain extent, that may be true if there is a lot of busywork that other staff are not able to complete in a timely manner. Nevertheless, I encourage you to incorporate interns into impactful work. Each intern should be tested on their ability to be self-sufficient, manage deadlines, showcase their ability to critically think, and independently complete quality work.

Streamlined Process

A great example of how successful an internship program can be to an organization is to look at how important student teaching is for those in education or how important clinicals are for students in healthcare. The process from start to finish is organized, outlined, and set up to take an intern from a fresh start to a potential hire in a few months.

Training, development opportunities, and accountability are crucial pillars to a well-run program. Mentors are also a key aspect. Interns need accountability partners and teachers who will encourage, advise, and express concern if there is an area for growth.

I am thankful my journey in human resources did not end after failing to land an internship in college and that it is now part of my story. Today, I am proud to serve as the president-elect for Lynchburg Regional Society for Human Resource Management and as the human resources manager for Intercon, Inc. I am grateful that Intercon hired me as account manager more than six year ago. Little did I know that just over a year later I would be asked to fill an opening in the HR and finance department and I would officially start my HR career.

Now, I feel an incredible sense of gratitude and loyalty to my company and to those who gave me a chance. I am confident, if given an opportunity, there are plenty of individuals just like I was who are ready to work and make a difference for your organization.

David Brandt is a SHRM-certified professional and currently serves as the HR Manager at Intercon, Inc., and president-elect for the Lynchburg Regional Society for Human Resource Management. A Lynchburg native, David holds an MBA from Louisiana State University – Shreveport and human resources management degree from Liberty University.