To take or not to intern

Monday, April 6, 2015

The company I work for has a good internship program. Well, I think it is good but whether this feeling is shared by the interns I can’t say. My personal grading of our program is based solely on two factors. One, it is paid and paid well. Two, I have yet to catch an intern looking remotely stressed out between the bonding lunches, special outings, and volleyball tournaments but perhaps we just hire very Zen people. When I say the program is good what I mean is that it is good for the interns, not necessarily good for those of us who hire them, or to be totally honest, not necessarily good for me.

A couple of years ago I hired an intern before he was to start at an Ivy League college. His resume was very impressive; a stellar academic record, previous work experience, patent filed on an invention, and on top of that he was the captain of one of his high school’s sports teams. This young man was the bee’s knees on paper and as it happened in person too. I should have been just thrilled but instead I was also instantly anxious! Not because I was personally intimidated by him, even though he will likely surpass me in professional value in the not too distant future; no, I had plain old parental angst. What had his parents done exactly for him to turn out this way? I had to find out and apply in my own parenting immediately!

Anyway, I digress. My parental anxiety passed soon enough and my son is still allowed to watch Cartoon Network. No, the real challenge with taking on an intern for me is the time investment as there are no plug and play positions readily available in my department, nor any positions that require limited training in order to keep the intern both busy and learning. Taking an intern in my department is a labor intensive summer commitment and I am already overcommitted at work. To add to that my son’s summer camp schedule and there is not room for lots of handholding. So when I was asked this spring if I had a need for a summer intern I said; “No thank you,” easily justifying this decision to myself as I really did not have a “need.”

I wish at this point I could say that I had a self-realization that my decision would make me a talker not walker and that I changed my mind of my own accord, but that is not at all what happened. My decision was basically challenged by someone I respect using some very basic points from my own belief system. We do have a civic duty to support future generations, to give them opportunities to succeed and help them make the best choices for their futures. I would want someone to give such an opportunity to my son and so it should not be about my need. However, I remain realistic about my schedule limitations so this year the intern will not just be my responsibility but the responsibility of many of my wonderful team members too, which I genuinely feel is best for all of us including the intern.

This time I have hired a woman already in college. She appears bright, responsive, and very upbeat. We have a specific plan for her summer and she has volunteered to brush up on any skills in advance she needs but do not already have. I am excited for her arrival and I think this time around the internship program will be not just good for her but good for me too. More to follow…

“Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do” 
– John Wooden

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