Interns - Blessing or Burden?


Internships have long held a place in the workforce in numerous industries. It has served as an important stepping stone to prepare young candidates of the "real" world that differs from the teachings and practices otherwise experienced within "four walls" albeit the classroom.

Now, many of you have undergone an internship, or you may be looking to get one - either way, this post looks to discuss the intern and determine to what extent they can be blessings or burdens.

Let's start with the blessings.

Interns bring with them a fresh approach and different perspective, looking to make their mark and eventually do well enough to land a full time gig. They may also help alleviate stress on on current workloads, with interns taking on work of all form and function, never judging, always accepting. They are eager, hungry to learn, and are vessels that can be groomed to near perfection.

Interns are a blessing to many workplaces in that they bring with them the latest teachings and are skilled to be able to perform many given tasks without much guidance. The interns of today are also problem solvers, tech-savvy and probably could do 3 people's jobs with their invested interest in learning and developing their repertoire of skills. It is not uncommon for a digital marketing intern these days who may have skills in photography and retouching images.

More than anything, interns are cheap labour (sometimes free). It is up to a good supervisor to really make the most out of their intern. I've heard terrible stories where interns have been brought in, and are subjected to such menial administrative tasks, that undermine the entire reason for them being there. Guide them, make them an extension of yourself and if they are capable and willing, they will do good for the business.

Next, interns as burdens?

Interns can sometimes be seen as burdens. They get in the way, they are opinionated and think their way could be better. They lack the experience (time + involvement) to be able to be able to make critical decisions. They have after all only been living in a simulation and have been ingrained with the philosophies of textbook wizards - whose very existence is to tell you what's right or wrong (because they can).

I've personally had interns where they took matters into their own hands, and failed miserably. Why? Because they think they are doing the right thing and are too afraid to ask and seek counsel for milestones of projects. It's as if they have to prove to the world that they know what they're doing and can deliver. Nay my friends, when we are in the process of learning, ask the questions, challenge the responses, and always, always remember to check in from time to time. You're interns - we know that you don't know everything.

Interns also tend sometimes not to be proactive. They do their work, and God knows I've seen it before, chill and twiddle their thumbs. I learned a very important lesson during one of my earlier internships, where I excelled in my workload and finished tasks quicker than my fellow interns. What did I do? I basically twiddled my thumbs and thought it was ok to "chill". My supervisor failed me for that internship with an important message - be proactive. If you've finished your work, go around and learn more about the company, put yourself in a position where you "appear" to be interested, and also be interested - because if not, this place isn't for you. Ask others if they need help, ask your supervisors what the next project is, see how you can take some of the burden off of their shoulders. It goes a long way of just being that guy who does his work and leaves compared to the person that gets shit done for the company and collaborates and is always eager and willing to help others.

So then, what about the idea of internships? Do they work? It really depends on whether the company and supervisor lays out an appropriate internship training plan with relevant tasks and activities. I believe that a good internship should include:

Discovery

You are able to learn and discover more about the role, the organisation and have the ability to develop yourself.

Challenge

Your work is questioned. You are analysed and deconstructed and must be able to respond appropriately.

Competent

You must be able to perform the tasks designated to your position and specialty area (unless you're floating around departments).

Resilient

You need to be able to take shit (within reason) and not give up or give in. Stand firm, but be prepared to be criticised.

Honest

Be honest, and open - always.

Internships can make or break your career pathway, but remember - you make it out to whatever you want to be.

As Shakespeare once said:

Men are masters of their own fate: It is not in the stars but in ourselves.

Daniel-Jacob Santhou

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Melbourne, Australia   

Daniel-Jacob Santhou

A Creative Strategist that is passionately curious.

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