Interns: Future Leaders or Coffee Carriers?

This person is probably an intern.

This person is probably an intern.

We all know how much fun it is to laugh at the TV versions of interns. They scurry to-and-fro, trying valiantly to rise above their lowly rank, but they end up with the short end of the stick all too often. I’m willing to bet that people wouldn’t laugh nearly as much if they looked at the interns not as “get me a cup of coffee” gophers, but as the future leaders of the company.

After all, are internships created so a company can get free labor? I should hope not. The intern experience should be a rich addition to a formal education plan. And while the company does get the benefit of inexpensive labor, they shouldn’t necessarily take advantage of the intern’s willingness to do anything for experience.

I was speaking recently with Nancy Woolever, the SHRM Director of Education. When I mentioned the topic of internships, she quickly brought up several points about how important it is to treat interns properly. We both agreed that internships are an excellent method to help college students transition into an entry level career after college, but many companies either don’t utilize interns in their own organizations or don’t treat their young staff as well as they should.

So… Now the ball’s in your court. Are your interns sitting around taking up space, or are they engaging in projects that will have a lasting impact on your business? That answer, my friends, is up to you. Have a comment?

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