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Nov. 15 2019

Keys to a successful internship program

Nov-Dec 19 Williams

If you are a small business owner, then you know how hard it can be to find awesome employees. Job sites such as Indeed, Career Builder and LinkedIn certainly give us a worthy list of candidates, but sometimes they just don’t fit the mold of our culture. What if there was a way that you can have a continual stream of potential employees that you train to fit your standards? Well, there is a way and that is through the power of internships.

Internships are not anything new. Many of you reading this article have probably completed an internship in your life. You might think of interns as only for high school or college students. Well, they can be used with anyone else too.

Here are four reasons why internships are an ideal way to grow your fitness team.

1. Internships are often unpaid — Most internships are unpaid. As a result, people who apply for your internship already have that understanding. This means that they are willing to take a chance in learning from you without financial compensation. Just as important, if they are willing to learn from you without pay, this speaks to their desire to learn, grow and really become a great fitness professional. Since the internship is unpaid, the only investment you are making is your time. Be sure to check your state’s labor laws regarding internships to be sure you are compliant.

2. Internships bring a steady list of candidates — There are a lot of newly certified personal trainers and those thinking of switching careers to the fitness industry. You know that they need your supervision. They are looking for opportunities to learn how to be great trainers, even if that means doing it without pay.

As a result, you will get a consistent stream of internship leads. Depending on the type of fitness professional you want working for you, the interns can come from the university setting, a current struggling certified trainer looking for more direction, or a retired grandmother looking to give back.

3. Win-win: Interns grow while your business grows — This is an opportunity for you to get as much out of the interns and grow your business without the financial strain of additional payroll. For example, if have a project or perhaps thinking about revamping your client reassessment follow up; give this task to an intern. Or, if you are behind on your client programming, teach the intern how to do this. Perhaps you have not done a client appreciation party in a while, let the intern take the lead with your guidance. In other words, by giving the intern meaningful assignments, it will help them learn the fitness industry and continue to grow your bottom line at the same time.

4. Gain credibility and get valuable client feedback — Any great business values the feedback they get from their customer. The same goes for you as a fitness business owner. Internships are a great way for your clientele to see how much focus you put on training and education with them being a part of that.

Tell your clients that they are a big part of the training you do. Ask for their feedback about the intern(s). Have a checklist of questions that include:

  • Are they prompt?
  • Do they greet other clients and you?
  • Are they prepared?
  • Do they make small talk and is it appropriate?
  • Do they ask you how things are in general with your life?
  • Do they follow-up with you after each session?
  • Are they providing feedback during the session of proper form, technique, etc.?
  • Do they give you some form of a compliment like a high five, handshake or a verbal great job?
  • Are they explaining the overall routine and exercises in a way that you can easily understand?
  • Is the intern asking you for feedback on how they can improve your experience?

Your clients makes or break your business. Getting them involved in the internship experience makes them feel more part of the team!

Here are 3 steps to integrate an internship program:

  1. A strong marketing system.
  2. An online portal of rock-solid education.
  3. An in-depth practical system.

A strong marketing system
Marketing for interns is no different than marketing for clients. It must be consistent, have a strong message and attract the ideal people for your business.

One successful way to do this is by developing an ad with a keen landing page that is tiered. For example, the first ad may give a quick overview of the internship and ask the applicant to complete step #1 only if the information presented piqued their interest by providing their email. Once they give their email, then the applicant is automatically sent ad #2 that congratulates them for completing step #1 and gives more information to complete step #2.

Step #2 may include a personal video from you giving more detail about the position and explaining exactly what is going to be required of them. In order to move on to ad and step #3, they must now provide their full name and other information you would include on a regular job application.

Finally, if they complete step #2, they are automatically sent an email with instructions to complete step #3. Step #3 requires that they submit their resume and complete a case study about how they would work with a client (both sent to you by mail). If they follow through with all three steps, then you can call them and set-up phone and in-person interviews.

Places to market this formal application process include typical places such as Facebook jobs, job search engines, community listserves, email blast sent to your clients, and word-of-mouth. Having a formal system like this in place brings you serious potential interns and eliminates those who are not commitment to growth as fitness professional.

Online portal education system
Now that the intern is ready to start, it’s important to have a dual education approach. The shadowing of clients and working with you (or your head trainer) on other tasks is obvious, but, what about when they are not meeting with you?

An online portal education system will make your life easier. The recommended process is to develop a list of items you want your interns to learn. Once you narrow your list to the core ten things or so, then, you start developing curriculum for them. This curriculum is going to be your online education system that you put into weekly modules.

For example, week #1 may be a video of you giving a brief overview of the internship. Week #2 may be a video of your head trainer explaining the history of your business and the clientele you serve. Week #3 might include a video of your onboarding and assessment processes. Week #4 may be a video of your nutritionist talking about your in-house supplement line and why you chose that company. Each module should include homework that they turn in to you each week.

There is no doubt that this system is highly-detailed, but the results will produce qualified professional fitness trainers who will know your business inside and out! With that being said, the recommended length of your internship is 90-120 days.

An in-depth practical system
The majority of your in-depth practical system should include all of your exercise programming. Your intern(s) should be taught proper:

  1. Exercise execution, including regressions and progressions.
  2. How to conduct fitness assessments.
  3. How to write client programs.
  4. How to work with special population clients.

This would also be the time for them to shadow you (or your head trainer) conducting prospective consultations. The practical system is really limitless and up to your business as to what is important for them to know.

Internships are a great way to grow your fitness team. They are financially viable, bring a steady stream of interest and they allow your clientele to be more involved in the decision making of your business. If you have been thinking about starting an internship, now is a great time to do so!

Maurice Williams offers a rare combination of advanced academic training, personal experience as a competitive athlete, entrepreneur skills and 19 years of experience in personal fitness and training. That combination – a strong understanding of exercise and sport science and clinical exercise physiology, being an owner of two businesses, the determination of a competitive athlete, and broad fitness experience – makes Maurice uniquely effective in helping his clients and colleagues meet their goals. He has a BS in Exercise/Sport Science from Elon College (Now Elon University) and an MS in Clinical Exercise Physiology from Ohio University.