The appropriate advice for 2012
I recently read a post on Brazen Careerist called “How to Rock Your First Intern’s World This Summer” by Alison Elissa that I really hope was an example of great satire. If so, I sincerely applaud the author… because I was mad as hell when I finished reading the advice given on the post!
I read several of the author’s other posts on her own blog; Alison is a good writer. I truly hope, however, that she wasn’t really suggesting in this Brazen post that we return our view of interns – and internship advice – back to the 1980s and before.
“Here’s your coffee, Mr. Johnson. Gee, my internship is swell!”
On the chance the author was serious… I had to write a rebuttal. If only because an intern candidate, or an employer or two, might have read the post and thought, ‘This really is good advice’. If that is the case, they’re now headed down a very wrong path. I want to save them before it’s too late.
Here are the parts of the post that really burned my coffee and jammed my copy machine…
“The best items to delegate to an intern are routine, replicable tasks. Perhaps a status report needs to be generated each week or an expense report needs to be filed monthly.”
Granted, many interns don’t yet have a lot of work experience. That’s why they’re gaining experience through their internships. As such, employers shouldn’t place interns in high-responsibility positions such as managing the company’s finances and investments. That said, the “best” delegation is “routine, replicable tasks”?
Interns shouldn’t be solely relegated to the mundane – or seen as minion automatons. They come to you with skills and career goals. They expect you to take time to mentor and teach them. Challenge your interns – help them develop critical thinking skills they didn’t get to use sitting in a college classroom!
“Two other prime candidates for delegation are anything you particularly dislike doing or anything your intern has expressed an interest in learning.”
I’m all in support of the second point there. The first point – in today’s workplace – better be satire.
Yes… learn what interests your interns; a good internship will help them explore and develop their skills sets – and a potential career path.
No… do NOT delegate “anything you particularly dislike doing”! In 2012 there are already way too many employers who still view interns as “go-fers”. Your advice, Alison, even if satirical, does a destructive dis-service to the efforts of those who are trying hard to advance interns out of the silos and dungeons that imprison stereotypical internships.
“Start with one task. Walk your intern through the procedures you’ve written. You might feel tentative about letting go of doing that task yourself. What if they get it wrong?”
So what if they do get it wrong? It’s an internship! Interns are supposed to make the occasional mistakes – and learn from them. A good internship – and mentor – encourages its participants to get out of their comfort zone and develop some confidence!
As their mentor, you should not hesitate to delegate real responsibility.
“You’ll be pleasantly surprised by how nice it is to have a well trained intern completing aspects of your job for you. Those mundane tasks that you delegate will free up a good chunk of time.”
This gem was my favorite…
I’d also suggest that employers get a puppy to clean up the Break Room floor for them. The employer will be pleasantly surprised by the puppy’s efficiency as it sniffs out crumbs with little support, training or encouragement. And the employer will save a good chunk of time not having the mundane task of mopping the floor.
I hope the Brazen post was satire, Alison. Otherwise, the suggestion is that we go back to the days of interns as second-class citizens not worthy of true responsibility, the opportunity to learn… or to be worthy of respect.
For me, and for the creative culture and positive employer brand I’m working to create, I refuse to follow this out-dated advice.
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