It is a harsh harsh world out there in 2013. No doubt about that. I wouldn’t much fancy being a school/college/university leaver right now, but if I were … I would SO be doing an internship (or several) and I would be SO precise and definite about what kind of internship I wanted to do and who with.
If I were a business offered a loop hole through which I could access (essentially unskilled) labour at no cost/virtually no cost AND I intended to use that labour to cover low-skilled positions or was not terribly concerned about quality performances in higher skilled positions, then I would take just as many interns as I could handle. Obvious.
2013 (at least where I come from – Italy) is no laughing matter for businesses, and to a greater or lesser extent that’s probably true for many other European countries too (Spain, Greece and Portugal spring randomly to mind). Not only we emerging (are we?) from the devastation left by a world economic recession, massive world economic changes are giving us a sound whipping too (the sharing economy requiring businesses to acquire new skill sets, continual relocation of manufacturing sites in a constant search to reduce costs, the creation of areas of excellence alla Silicon Valley etc.). And in Italy certainly our own government is beating us down too, defying our every attempt to get this country out of the massive hole it has dug for itself. Cost-cutting is a full time activity.
Yep, if I were a business, as per the description above, and could use free interns to cut probably my largest single cost – wages – I would do it in a heartbeat.
Well I am a business. But not like the one described above. And we do have interns. And we don’t exploit them for free (dubious quality) labour. We don’t have low/skill requirement level jobs, and we don’t compromise on quality. Taking on cheap labour is not an option for us.
Internships with us are an exchange whereby both we and the intern can grow and learn, and no-one has false expectations.
Here’s how an internship works with us:
- we have an area of work which requires specific (but easily acquirable) skills
- that area of work could benefit from younger/different eyes (an opposing point of view is always invaluable)
- we like to build up our potential work contacts for the future – but we are not searching for anyone right now
- we don’t pay anyone – we invest in the interns’ training, the intern doesn’t pay anyone to learn – they invest in the company’s immediate business activities and in their own skill set
Here’s our deal:
- 2/3 days introduction to our company (via a blog built up by previous interns who recount their experiences)
- specific trackable tasks that are introduced gradually as related skills grow
- maxi-flex time; as long as the intern gets quality work completed, is continually skill-building and communicating every day regards difficulties/doubts/problems, we have no problem with scheduled flexi-time
- the internship has a start day and an end day (generally about 8 weeks) with no view to a work offer at the end
What the intern gains:
- insight into workings of a 2013 business, the good the bad and the ugly!
- although the interns work exclusively in English, exposure to some Italian inevitably happens; never a bad thing
- the acquisition of real skills (both sector specific and core skills)
- experience in working for a bi-lingual foreign company in a virtual environment (we don’t have an office!)
- meeting nice people! – we and our clients are all fabulous!
What we gain:
- direct contact with the quality and characteristics of the future workforce
- insights into our own work (quality, methodology, processes) that it would otherwise be hard to gain
- a fabulous system (blog, private web site etc) contributed to by each of our interns which is potentially a great resource for integrating a new team member into our company at speed
- a network of contacts of whose performance levels we have first degree experience – both businesses and individuals need to network to get the very best of what’s available out there (jobs, contacts, new employees, information – whatever)
As an intern, if you can identify a business that can offer you an internship of a defined (short) length and is able to name the skills that you will walk away with at the end, jump at it. IF the internship is either long/undefined length with vague promises about a job at the end of it, either run like hell, OR evaluate what you can get out of the experience and market your experiences as skills once you get out.
You potential/current interns – get the ants out of your pants, stop moaning about being exploited and figure out fast if/how you can exploit the companies. And then do it.