Remember that time as a child when you woke up and were all “you know what would be super fun… working for free”? Or that ‘uh-huh’ moment where you suddenly wanted to spend 580 hours of your life crying into a paper shredder and living off expired cans of baked beans? Nope, neither.
I don’t envy interns, but I do feel for them. I feel for their living standards, the soul-sucking depths of their 4×4 inner-city studio and their weekday meals consisting of a gourmet mix of MacDonald’s mustard sachets and a cup of your shittiest instant coffee, probably something like Nestle. And I feel for their often dismissed creative endeavours.
To be honest, I avoided doing internships till it was almost too late. My first one was when I was 21, it lasted a week and I came out of it with a very small (almost minute) byline and a date ten years my senior. And while I knew I had dues to pay and skillz to drill, what I didn’t know was that those big wigs, the babes and dames in the driver’s seat, had a role to play too. That role was to educate me and foster my growth as a young journalist, which didn’t look a lot like me passing out in front of a tiny Vietnamese baker because he was all out of my editor’s favourite Banh mi.
Since then I’ve had many interns myself and very few of them have sucked. My first intern is now a close and dear friend and that’s probably because we spent days bonding over our mutual love of Tina Fey and our exclusive hate for anyone that does not like Tina Fey. What did I teach her? Probably not a lot apart from the fact I love a martini and a good pun. She in turn has probably gone on to do far greater things than me, and thankfully will never resent me.
Your intern’s your friend people, and if you don’t watch out they can easily become your foe. These are the reasons to be nice to your interns.
- They’re still kids
The majority of interns are really very premature. You can tell because they say things like ‘da boss’ and ‘biznass time’ and wear Birkenstocks to client meetings. They also still think fruit roll-ups are nutritious, because like, it’s fruit rolled up and stuff. But, you need to consider this in your approach. They probably spent their last pay cheque on their inappropriate attire, so be gentle when you tell them their attire is not conducive to the work environment or their general ‘sexyynass’. You can be clear and firm, but always respect them. You need Free Them as much as they need Reference You.
- Ain’t no govt got time for that
That’s not really true either, some governments do, just not our one, mostly because Tony Abbot’s all ‘wink wink this, nudge nudge that, soz got no dollars for subsidised edumacation babez’. That means these poor street rats need to find some real time learning somewhere and secure it against all the other masses vying to work for free. The fact there’s now several processes when applying to work as a ‘volunteer’ at companies is a sick indicator of Australia’s high youth unemployment rate. Bogus. Teach your interns to make themselves sickeningly indispensable, then measure the cause and effect it has on your business. Grow them and in turn they should grow the business. It’s a give and take game, but your main goal should be to hire in order to inevitably employ, regardless of the outcome.
- They’re judging you, like, right now
Yeah, right now. They don’t think the fact you still watch Saved By The Bell re-runs is caah-ute. Or the fact that Luke Perry circa ‘89 is still a part of your top 10. They think you dress like someone that couldn’t find the light switch and gets outfit ideas from print catalogues – CATALOGUES! Simply, they’re young and better than you because they’re.. young. They don’t even use Facebook. Gross. Even Snapchat’s heading towards the boring door. They’re automating shit and your still filing your electricity bills. Lame, mate. Remember, they’re not there to idolise you, you’re just a physical wikipedia page they can cut and paste from.
Give your intern the information, the skills, the tools to find their purpose. They want to learn from you, not be you.
- If she’s your bitch, you’re a bitch
If your perception of an intern is someone that does all your dirty work (like laundry), get an EA. If you choose to treat them like someone that lacks general input, then you’ll ruin your own rep along with that of your organisation. Offer to buy your interns coffee and never allow them to get you anything personal. I remember one internship where the editor asked me to take her shoes to the bootmaker half way across town. I took a train and $20 of my pre-paid phone bill bitching to my friends about how the only thing I’d learnt at my internship was that my editor had bandy legs and an instep.
- Started from the bottom now they’re here
Ever hear about US politician Anthony Weiner and his intern Olivia Nuzzi? Well, Olivia wrote a super cute little expose on her experience while working on Weiner’s campaign. The piece appeared on the front cover of the Daily News and basically tore apart the whole setup from the inside. Granted Nuzzi’s original intentions were questionable, but it doesn’t take away from the morale of the story; they may start as an intern but you never know where they’re going to end up.
Be nice. It’s just like Drake says, “Started from the bottom now we here…”
Please share your most shitty intern stories in the comment section.