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To Employers: How a Short-Term Investment Becomes a “Buy-and-Hold” Candidate

Written by Constantine Madias

Perspective: you recently extended internship offers to an impressive cohort of promising candidates. These students took initiative, were wonderfully prepared for interviews and convinced you, as the employer, that an investment in them is the right one. Imagine them as individual stock selections; you were enamored by their “pitch books,” and as a result you’ve added them to your “summer portfolio.”

This isn’t a walk down Wall Street, but every employer should ask themselves the following: How can I maximize my return on investment? What new skills will equip them for future success and provide both of us with a sustained competitive advantage? Are my expectations for our candidates substantial and meaningful? Have I ensured our interns will have adequate exposure to our brightest organizational talent?

Return on Investment through New Skillsets:

A positive return on investment (ROI) is measured for both parties by assessing an employee’s ability to problem solve, leveraging skills they possess to create resources that didn’t exist previously, in the quality of their work and, of course, in a candidate’s capacity to positively adapt to and influence organizational culture. Your ROI soars exponentially if an intern exudes all of these qualities, and makes a long-term commitment to your organization.

Secure and exceed your ROI by challenging your interns. Equip your youth with specific skills your organization is currently lacking, or that are crucial in efficiently completing major initiatives.

As a personal example, I have begun building my competitive advantage in learning to code. All of my projects require extensive use of SAS to manipulate large datasets, build reports, and analyze trends. Learning SAS has been an enjoyable challenge resembling that of learning a foreign language; I practice every day with aspirations to become fluent. I am motivated by continuous improvement, and fully aware of the potential to heighten my career trajectory by adding a specialized technical skill. In market terminology, SAS has widened my “economic moat.”

A forward-looking approach always wins. In turn, the student works toward a status of indispensability, with a new skillset that diversifies him or her from their peers. This is my ROI.

Daunting Quarterly Earnings Guidance: Goals and Objectives

Within your intern’s first week on the job, have the “goals and objectives” conversation. Give them guidance, but also get a feel for their aspirations. Making copies or fetching coffee won’t improve your intern’s resume. Instead, be proactive and empowering. Let your interns spearhead projects with bigger implications, and assign deadlines. Back to market jargon here: You’re recommending quarterly earnings guidance, with hopes that your intern “beats” projections.

Weeks before transitioning onto my current team, my prospective manager was prepared. She tied each objective to the strategic pillars of our team and the Bank so that I knew, too, of my potential to add value. My current project will uncover regional risks and assist bank examiners in their daily roles. At the project’s conclusion, I will have written a publication describing its findings, and potentially present it at a System-wide conference. If you don’t position your interns to make a difference now, they probably won’t believe they can later. You only have one chance to make the right first impression.

Bezos, Buffett, and Your Brightest Minds

What makes a stock’s (intern’s) future growth prospects promising? Strong fundamentals (core competencies), a sustained competitive advantage (specialized skills), a proven record of past returns (grades), a clean balance sheet (capital measured in knowledge), and… a stellar management team; THAT’S YOU!

Senior executives and high-flyers are the closest representation to your company’s best qualities; these individuals personify success.  Freshly-minted interns are eager to emulate and impress; place them in positions to network and take advice from those who have experienced long-term success, and to build poise in high-leverage situations.

As an intern at The Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, I had several opportunities to showcase my work at intern expos, mingle with execs during cocktail hours, and field their questions after a daunting final summer presentation. With time, I became amazingly comfortable around our senior leaders, and they were unbelievably receptive to my inquiries. My golden rule, you ask? Never eat lunch alone.

Conclusively, it’s important to remember that like the market, an internship can take many shapes. However, no matter the place, these experiences should be guided by meaningful work and with an eye on the future. An intern’s future is just as much in your hands as the employer, as it is in their own hands. Make every day memorable for them, because many have hopes of one day filling your shoes.


The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily the views of the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland or the Federal Reserve System.

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