The Intern Invasion

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College is out for the summer and I can see all the interns floating around workspaces. The new movie The Internship is shining a light on them too. The pressure to get a cool internship is mounting but getting one and making the most of it is not easy.

Interns are easy to spot. They all try to blend in and not make too much noise but, they can’t help it – they stick out like a sore thumb. None of them want to look like they don’t know what’s going on, but truth is, they don’t know what’s going on. Most of them would rather be anywhere else having fun. But here they are, hoping to learn something. At the very least, interns are willing to suffer in order to get something good to put on the resume.

Looking around the workplace, I see three kinds of internships:

1. Those that are unpaid but might look really good on the resume. See under keywords like orphanage or not-for-profit.

2. Those that pay well because, often, no one else will do the work. Keywords construction or sewers.

3. Those that might require quitting college because there is so much money involved. Keywords Twitter, Google and Hot Startup.

The ideal internship is one that pays well AND looks good on the resume. These are tough to find according to the intern seekers I meet. Keyword: hen’s teeth.

And there are always the standbys like camp counselor, barrista, lifeguard and waitress. These are borderline internships. The pay can be good but these are more like “summer jobs” and seem to have fallen out of favor. But that experience can be just as valuable. Keywords here are work hard and maybe do some good.

Regardless of the type of internship, the actual interns don’t have a lot of control over their experience and usually don’t want to make any waves so they may quietly suffer. What a waste. But if we each do only one thing, it might help.

That one thing you must do for an intern is: Take the intern under your wing. Give that intern some attention. That’s all. You don’t even have to be nice – just include them. (The workplace is full of not nice people and they need to know.) I know for you over burdened workers it may seem like an investment of time that will never be returned, but don’t think that way. And I know the attention that you give to an intern will not show up in your own performance review. No matter. The attention requires nothing special, just integrate the intern into your work day. Here’s how:

  • Take interns out to lunch. You have to eat anyway.
  • Tell them how things really work “around here”. Really work.
  • Encourage them about careers. They will have to choose one eventually.
  • Invite them to meetings. Maybe they will take notes for you.
  • Give them a reading list. Get those books you’ve been meaning to read off the credenza and ask them to summarize.
  • Ask them questions about their lives and see if they will help you with your social media presence.

Most importantly, convince them that work may not be as good as college but it’s not so bad.

Someday one of those interns could be your boss.

One thing I know for those of you seeking internships is that sitting around playing video games all summer is not an internship. Keywords: waste of time and talent.

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