Happy businessmen handshaking after negotiation in office

Relationships are the cornerstone of commercial real estate. They always have been. For many in the industry, those relationships have developed over decades. Those that remember the Rolodex (and those that still use one), the spinning catalog of names, phone numbers and, more recently, email addresses, recall how they held information about key contacts. Today, digital directories, for the most part, have replaced the analog desktop card index. The relationships, however, still exist.

Newcomers to the commercial real estate game have a career’s worth of meeting and greeting before they’ll have amassed the relationships of their more seasoned counterparts. Connecting earlier on in one’s career with prospective employers, buyers, sellers, and investors can ensure success down the road. It’s here that internships hold promise for future commercial real estate executives as well as an opportunity for established real estate companies.

Interns No Longer Get Coffee

In the past, the intern connoted the low-person on the totem pole. Traditionally, they got coffee, made photocopies, and executed other busywork. Not so much anymore. Interns represent top prospective talent. According to a survey conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), only 8% of intern tasks involve clerical or non-essential work responsibilities, with the other 92% spent on higher-level tasks like data analysis, problem-solving, and logistics.

According to job seeker site, Indeed, among the critical skills that interns should practice is collaboration. That implies working in groups, assisting in defining project requirements, and meeting with stakeholders. In other words, relationship building. Top interns will seek out internships that provide those opportunities, not ones that have them running for the lunch order. That’s a real benefit for the company, however. An intern that’s a go-getter can unburden full-time staff by allowing them to stay focused on core responsibilities rather than ad-hoc side projects.

Internships Are Company Builders

While having some temporary summer help can bridge the gaps in personnel during peak vacation time, an internship program can hold further rewards for an organization. The one-time work or service experience allows the student to work in a professional setting under the supervision and monitoring of practicing professionals. That’s good for the student but even better for the employer that gets a no-obligation opportunity to size-up potential future employees.

Knowing the caliber of worker you’re getting before hiring saves companies money. NACE says that among the roughly 60% of interns that are hired, more than half are still with the hiring organization five years later. That’s impressive savings considering that the Society for Human Resource Management says the average cost to hire an employee is $4,129.

Finally, internships can help build your company with lower-cost labor. The average cost for hiring an intern is substantially lower than the cost of a full-time employee. With a relatively modest expenditure you can add talent to your organization, which can be on a temporary basis for a period that meets your business needs.

Beyond Efficiency and Economics

There are some clear benefits to internships programs from efficiency and economic perspectives. However, the benefits of running an internship program abound in other ways as well. Here’s just a few:

Staying in touch with talent.

Internships can be a year-round recruiting tool. By staying close to the pool of future employees, employers get insights into what it takes to acquire and retain talent.

Connect with the college community.

Most colleges these days have internship programs with dedicated coordinators. These programs can in identifying prospective intern talent, but also provide the added benefit of keeping your brand in front of the local talent pool.

Increase your social reach.

College students today connect through social media. So, it’s natural that they would want to interact with prospective employers in the same way. By reaching out to the intern community through social media, businesses can expand their digital footprint through a captive audience.

Corporate Give-back.

Hiring interns helps to advance the careers for young people in your community. In an age where society is focused on corporate social responsibility, demonstrating how you’ve helped others is an excellent testament to your brand.