Zoom meeting with interns on their first day

What (and why) is a micro-internship?

Who gave you your first break?

Many highly successful people will tell you that they got to their position solely through talent and hard work. However, when you dig down and ask,

“How did you get your first job?”

The answer is often something like this:

“My best friend’s dad worked at XYZ Corporation and got me a job as an intern.”
“We had a neighbor, next-door to our cabin on the lake, and he knew the CTO at Acme, Inc. and asked them to interview me.”
“My brother’s girlfriend worked at this tech company and emailed me the job announcement.”

It’s not that those individuals were not talented or hard-working, but if you dig back far enough you’ll find that they more often than not got that first job through connections. They were able to crack that conundrum of not being able to get a job without experience and not being able to get experience without a job when SOMEONE gave them their first shot.

What if you don’t know anyone who summers in the Hamptons next to Bill Gates?

All right, I will confess that I have never been to the Hamptons, although a nice person did once take me on their boat alongside where Gates has a mansion in Washington. We did not get invited in. Also, I don’t know if or where Bill Gates has a summer house, but you get the idea.

George Floyd gave us the idea.

Our office is in the neighborhood where George Floyd was murdered. In the middle of all of the protests, and all the promises (mostly unfulfilled) to do something for the community, we wondered what WE could do. We are, after all, a small, new foundation with a very low budget. We wanted to do something and were reminded of a saying:

Nothing stops a bullet like a job.

– Father Greg Boyle

We have a lot of experience working with youth in high-risk communities. What if we worked with organizations to get young people their first job? We targeted tech companies because that’s a growth industry with a lot of high-paying occupations. Working with 7 Generation Games, Inc., a Minneapolis-based company, in the same neighborhood, we were able to pilot our micro-internship program, now in its second year.

Keys to a successful micro-internship program

  • Recognize you are working with young people brand-new to the workplace. Those currently in our program are from 14-16 years old. Do not expect them to have their own car or bank account. In setting them up as employees you may need to accommodate public (or parent) transportation schedules. For students who don’t have a bank account, the company can provide Visa gift cards which are re-loaded with each week’s pay. The wonderful Project Manager in the Zoom call above has helped more than one person open their first bank account.
  • Understand that going from not working at all to showing up five days a week from 8am to 5pm is a stretch. That’s why the micro-internship begins at 10 hours a week for five to six weeks. Interns can have flexibility in setting a schedule but then they are expected to keep to that schedule.
  • The micro-internship tasks should not just be ‘make-work’ or menial work. There should be a mix of actual work that needs to be done and training. For example, the 7 Generation Games interns do game testing for new prototypes, test existing games on new devices, like the latest Android phone, take over the company social media a couple of times a week. They also use Google apps for file sharing, Zoom for web meetings, Excel for data entry. None of this is rocket science but by the end of the internship they can legitimately claim experience with a range of common office applications.

Over the two years, 90% of the interns have successfully completed their program. We’d be more than happy to share our onboarding and process with you. Email annmaria@strongbodystrongmind.org for more information.

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