As America´s Nutrition Expert®, I know the importance of building a strong brand. As an entrepreneur, I recognize the value of sharing and gaining knowledge from others. That´s why I recently signed on six new interns. But these aren´t just any interns: they are VIRTUAL interns! Technology has made it possible for any savvy business owner to benefit from existing talent across all corners of the globe without ever leaving the office.
The number of applications I received exceeded my expectations. “Because I am interested in sports dietetics, it was recommended that I get in contact with Mitzi. As I was browsing through her web site www.nutritionexpert.com I came across her blog posting about the virtual internship she had created. All of the aspects were exciting to me, and I wasted no time in submitting an application,” said Pratik Patel, virtual intern and graduating dietetic intern at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida. But my blog wasn´t the only place my internship was publicized. “I found out about Mitzi Dulan’s internship through www.allaccessinternships.com — a fantastic resource for dietetics students,” said Meredith Harper, virtual intern and graduate student in dietetics at Florida International University. The overwhelming response allowed me to handpick the cream of the crop who would best represent my company. While several of my interns are interested in pursuing careers as dietetics, others are interested in building their writing portfolios. “I’ve been writing as a freelancer since I graduated college a few years ago, but I hadn’t yet found my “niche” in the field. I decided I really wanted to write about fitness/nutrition, but how? A writer needs experience to get experience. Mitzi’s blogs don’t just touch on physical well-being, they stress the importance of a healthy mindset as well,” said Pam Majumdar, freelance writer and copy editor for Hampton Roads Magazine.
My goal is for this to be a mutually beneficial experience, because I am dedicated to the success of each intern in their own professional pursuits. By the end of the first week, the interns had already been challenged to develop a personal nutrition philosophy, set up their own Twitter account, and start blogging. I will even have opportunities for them to get an inside look at the book publishing process. My intent is to cut years off the learning curve as they enter the competitive fields of dietetics and entrepreneurship. “As a former on-site intern of Mitzi´s, I can vouch for her commitment to mentorship. Her passion encouraged me to start my own business at the age of 20. Now, two years later, I am constantly reminded of how much of my success can be attributed to what I learned from Mitzi Dulan”, said Katie Hamm, virtual intern, co-founder of www.allaccessinternships.com and incoming dietetic intern at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.
A large part of establishing a strong brand is keeping up with social media. As many of you know, this can be a full-time job in and of itself. My interns are learning how to be the masters of social media. “I never really thought of blogs and Twitter as powerful social marketing tools. Now, I am beginning to appreciate their potential to help grow your business,” said Nicole Geurin, virtual intern and graduating dietetic intern at California State University, Sacramento. My interns help me in so many ways. They contribute to my blog and Twitter accounts, provide feedback for the layout and content of my website, and are helping me to revive my newsletter. This generation is truly tech-savvy, and today´s entrepreneur needs to take advantage of that.
If you are looking for a win-win in your business, the virtual internship is the way to go. The potential for growth is limitless when you employ interns who are willing to take initiative. For my internship, the most important qualities for my interns to possess is initiative, drive, and self-motivation. If you are considering implementing a similar program, I charge you to “think like an intern”. That means, assign projects that are meaningful to both parties. “My virtual internship experience with Mitzi has far exceeded my expectations. Every day is an opportunity to learn and grow. She is truly an inspirational and innovative mentor who gives back to her interns, and in return makes us want to work even harder for her,” said Kristen Carlucci, virtual intern and graduate student in dietetics at the University of Connecticut.
An additional benefit to the interns has been the ability to network with each other. As I mentioned earlier, I picked the best of the best and sometimes these over-achievers can feel isolated since they are such driven people. Now, my interns are connected with others who have similar interests and together we can accomplish big goals. Ironically, Katie is working in Spain this summer and Nicole was recently visiting on vacation. They were able to get together for tapas and had a wonderful time connecting.
Thank you Kristen, Meredith, Katie, Pratik, Nicole and Pam! As a mentor, you should always be looking for opportunities to help your interns grow as individuals and as professionals. THAT is what an internship is meant to be.