As an intern, you start off at the bottom of the ring and are often given mundane tasks such as fetching coffees, photocopying and running errands for others.
But I don’t think these are the types of tasks interns should being doing and surely not the perceptions we want future generations to have of what interning is.
Definition of Internship
I found a good definition of what an internship is being “Providing real world experience to those looking to explore or gain the relevant knowledge and skills required to enter into a particular career field.” But the underlying culture and stereotype of an intern tends to be the one who does all the jobs no one else wants to do. Even a University in America posted on their website saying “At some internship’s you become close friends with the copier and coffee machine.”
Now is this the type of message we want to get across to young students seeking internships? I don’t think so and I believe this stereotype of what an intern is must change!
Lies, Damned Lies and Internships
I recently read a chapter from Heather Huhman’s book called ‘Lies, Damned Lies and Internships’. It really hit home with what I am trying to get across. Heather talks about how the perceptions of internships need to change and if you find yourself making coffees and photocopies at your internship, you need to change this.
Heather says an internship should be no different from any other business position. I highly agree, if companies hire interns they should be doing it on the basis of gaining ‘fresh’ ideas from students and hearing their contributions. They shouldn’t want to hire interns so they can have more hands to help with photocopying and running little errands. So we should take this on board, we know we aren’t going to be an executive anytime soon because we are the ‘new kid’ but we can still contribute our ideas and make an impact.
A blogger was successful in doing this and recently wrote about her experience of how she was not going to be the ‘coffee maker’ at her internship and she set herself goals to make an impression. She made a project proposal and pitched her ideas to the company. It paid off and she was taken seriously, and is not just known as another intern and can definitely score a good reference out of that company for future jobs.
People are actually promoting this ‘Coffee’ perception
I recently watched a video blog post called ‘Fetching Coffee and Other Intern Duties’ this post really shocked me and I strongly go against what he is advising interns to do. Firstly he talks about making coffee as being part of the intern game and a task we must do. I don’t think we should be made to make coffee and I definitely don’t think we should be telling future interns that it’s “All part of the game.”
He also talks about what interns should be willing and unwilling to do as an intern. He says you have to do everything and anything. “Sweep the floors, turn on the lights, turn off lights, get the coffee, do this, do that.” No we shouldn’t have to do these things. We should be doing tasks that are related to our studies such as gaining experience about that industry and working alongside industry professionals.
It’s Time to Stand Up
Now don’t get me wrong, in our internship we should give 100% effort and we do learn from any experience. But the idea of what an ‘intern’ does on the job needs to change and not only can company’s change this perception but also interns can change it by being strong, standing up and saying “No, if you want a coffee, go and get it yourself.”