Interns: Slaves or Heros?

30 Aug

What size are you?

Sarah and Leslie both commented: we’re clearly on a roll with this intern thing. So let’s keep it cooking… my thoughts on internships: paid, unpaid, or otherwise.

Internships matter. Liberal artists aren’t learning the practical skills in school, so where else are you picking up what you need for the workplace? Where else can you apply your knowledge to real-world problems? I blame schools for not building this into the curriculum. But still, internships are critical in learning and adapting to a workplace environment.

Paid vs. Unpaid: The privileged among us can do an unpaid internship and get supported by mommy and daddy. This system is not going to change no matter how much people gripe about how unpaid internships are the root of all evil and against the law. Yes, it is wrong. The SAT also discriminates against  people from less wealthy backgrounds too. If you’re lucky, do the unpaid internship. If not, find a way to make it work financially or don’t apply. Blunt but true. Move on: there are worse intern issues.

Working with Interns: To me, a much worse thing than an unpaid internship is what interns do. If employers are looking for interns to make copies, fetch coffee, and look pretty all day, then stop. That’s silly. Interns can make a real difference in your workplace while doing a few menial tasks that everyone does to make the world go round. Give interns real responsibility and teach them. Interns will get a lot out of it and employers will too.

Interning after graduation: As a person interested in journalism, internships are the norm after graduation. And that’s okay with me. But the injustice is that I want to do internships on my terms. Or at least I want to be able to negotiate. I want to see an internship that’s more freelancing than interning, more temp-ing than interning. I want employers to have the flexibility to actually hire me on full-time if I do a good job, not just pay that lip-service and get some cheap labor. Yes, I should be paid. There are no promises of anything post-internship, but I believe in acting in good faith.

Proving yourself: Otherwise known as “paying your dues,” this is a big issue for entitled millenials. I am willing to sit-down-and-shut-up and work my tail feather off to prove I can cut it. But you have to give me at least one thing to run with and own. If you squeeze every last drop of creativity and innovation from me, I will shut off. This sounds crazy but I am willing to take a job that is up to 70% soul-crushing, as long as that other 30% isn’t bullshit. I want my work to matter so bad. As I develop a career, that percentage ratio will change.


One Response to “Interns: Slaves or Heros?”


  1. Apologies, Insecurities and Opportunities « - September 15, 2010

    […] art friends, hows about a temporary money-making venture where we take advantage of all that (as Ryan argued) not too practical knowledge clogging up the brain cells? That’s right liberal artists, I […]

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