Internships: What Do You Think?

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I was in throes of a good rant about interns, the other day, when I was caught in my own stupid web of illogical thinking.

That’s a very common experience in my life.

I was telling my husband that it’s unconscionable to ask students to work for free and pretend like they’re getting some kind of education. All work is education. We come to work with limited knowledge, skills, and abilities. We are asked to apply our intellect to problems and issues that we’ve never seen before. We get paid for that endeavor, but in the process of doing work, everyone learns something. My simple thesis? Pay your interns. Quit pretending like you’re doing the educational system a favor.

Ken stopped me and said that he could easily hear me argue that most people don’t learn anything at work. Especially students.

Snap. I think that’s true, too. As I look back on my career, I never learned anything at the office worth $400/credit hour. I was lucky enough to have a paid HR job in college and I would’ve never done the job for free. If someone had the gall to offer me an opportunity to work for free and pay the school for the honor of attending a class, I would have lost. my. shit.

So maybe I have a problem with internships in general — except I don’t. I think it’s important for kids to see a real work environment, experience office politics, and get my coffee. I matured about five years over the course of one summer as a Human Resources Assistant. I was able to make some practical & sensible decisions about my career. I saw people who had passion, emotion, and a competitive desire to succeed at work. I also saw people with mortgages, children in school, and credit card bills. I saw a side of reality that I didn’t see at private colleges in St. Louis or London.

Internships can be a good thing. I wish those kids would earn a little coin for their efforts, though.

To pay or not to pay? That is the question.

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