“After interning for three different organizations, I can safely say that not all internships are equal.” – Auburn University senior.
We’ve all heard horror stories about terrible internships. From scooping kitty litter to ironing curtains, many interns have had less than pleasant experiences. Unfortunately, a lot of business owners seem to think that fetching coffee and licking envelopes are crucial skills for the real world, which ultimately puts college students at a disadvantage.
Here at Verge Pipe Media, CEO and founder, Don Crow, tries to give his interns the most practical internship experience possible. He strives to give the kind of work that his interns will actually see results from and hopes that interns will look back and feel as though Verge Pipe Media really prepared them for the ins and outs of working life. Whether it’s teaching them to meet deadlines or how to be more job-oriented, Don stresses the importance of giving his interns a real-life experience while also sharing wisdom he has learned with a 20-year head start.
Sadly, a lot of business owners don’t put that much thought into their interns and use them as a free labor source rather than a potential asset to their company.
“My internship was a PR and marketing internship in Nashville with a magazine,” said a former Auburn University student. “It was unpaid, and I wouldn't suggest signing up for an unpaid internship because it can be more like slave labor if you're not getting paid. As far as the actual internship, it was ok. My supervisors weren't prepared for me and rarely had enough tasks to fill up my time.”
Many interns run into this problem. As a business owner, it’s a good idea to set up some sort of “intern curriculum” before hiring so you can keep your interns busy, but still doing purposeful work. If you create a rewarding program, not only will it benefit your interns, but they will likely be an asset to your business.
Interns bring fresh ideas to the table, and they create diversity in the office. But don’t take advantage of the fact that you’re getting free work. Whether you realize it or not, your interns are evaluating you just as much as you’re evaluating them.
“I really didn’t get much out of my internship,” said another former Auburn student. “They pretty much just gave me a desk, and I sat there until they asked me to do something. It was a waste of my time and their time. It was awkward because I felt like I was more of an inconvenience than an asset.”
Interns are eager and willing to work. They, just as much as you, want to succeed. Typically interns are in the midst of figuring out what career path they want to go down, and they’ll rarely deny opportunities you present to them.
“Overall, I've done about five internships, and I can't emphasize enough how important it is to get yourself in the workplace,” said an Auburn public relations student. “While five internships is more than the norm, I realized that it's taken me every one of them to learn more about myself and the job market. It teaches you your strong and weak points more than just sitting in the classroom. Each experience builds upon the other to craft the job you would ideally like to accept once you graduate.”
It’s also important to remember that interns are just that: they are learning, their lives are changing and they’re still young. Be understanding if they make mistakes and receptive to generational differences that might drive you crazy.
Most of all, love your interns. They’ll look to you for advice, expertise, even friendship, and they may even hire you to be their business partner when they start their multi-million dollar company. What’s not to love about that?