Two people shaking hands in front of a computer.

Family Business Internships

One of my goals has never materialized. It was an idea I came up with several years ago as I was seeing more and more family businesses closing their doors because they didn’t have a son or daughter interested in or ready to take over the reins of the business. And although I didn’t get my project up and running, if you are a family business owner, I think you will benefit from hearing about my idea. Here goes…

Many young people graduate from our universities and have no idea where they will find a meaningful, well-paying job.  They are ill prepared even though they have spent the past four years in higher education. Most of them have missed a very important opportunity to gain real-life work experience during their university studies: summer internships.

Students who have at least three summer internships under their belt by the time they graduate dramatically increase their chances of finding permanent, meaningful and well paying work.  They’ve learned real work skills, impressed managers and built a network into companies who may offer them their first job post graduation.

Now back to my idea regarding family business internships.

Today we have many dating websites that match singles: eHarmony,, Christian Mingle, Farmers Only, etc.  My idea comes from this type of service. Why not create a similar service that matches students whose parents run family businesses with those who are looking for summer internships?  These students will get to see how other family businesses are run, the passion that these business owners have for their companies and, hopefully, the positive support that family members give to each other. Here are some of the ways that the son/daughter benefits:

  • Are well supported and cared for by the employing family
  • Have a structured program that develops their skills and stretches them
  • Have a mentor during the assignment
  • Obtain valuable feedback during and at the completion of their assignment
  • Have a positive experience working for a different family business, probably in a different industry
  • Learn best practices that can be applied to their own family business
  • Earn their own money (some have never done this before)
  • Create life-long friendships
  • Have fun

Family businesses would post the internship that they have available along with a well-structured job description, who they report to, their mentor, the dates and pay. Things such as living accommodations should also be addressed.  I would recommend that you conduct a skype interview prior to an offer being made.

The goal of such an internship program for family businesses is that they can support each other in an important way, one that just might help move the business to the next generation.  Whether it is a “swap†arrangement (“you take my son for three months, I’ll take your daughter for 3 monthsâ€) or a family business simply makes an internship position available.  If the student has a positive experience at another family business, this increases the chances that they might one day want to work for their own family business.