Don’t Feed the Interns

I took advantage of so many internships in college it’s disgusting. Gave me a lot of grief.

Mostly I was paid, but on a couple occasions I wasn’t. Not in cash anyway. Perks like travel / food were a cash equivalent then, and that was fine.

So I don’t want to debate indentured servitude or “Modern-day slavery” or the humanity of it all. I think college kids are anxious to gain experience and if they’ll do it for free, why fight capitalism?

I’m positing something else:
If you don’t feed the interns, don’t let them hunt for food.

But first, let’s examine differences between interns and employees:

  • Interns are temporary; employees are [hopefully] permanent
  • Interns get mentored; employees get performance reviews
  • Interns share desks; employees have offices
  • Interns do fun stuff; employees tear out their eyeballs
  • Interns receive perks; employees receive benefits

These beg a resolve:
Interns work in the company, employees work on the company.

Disclaimer: there are plenty of exceptions where employees work in the company, namely at large orgs or those with bureaucratic processes. Heck, 99% of our government is working “in” this company we call The Great American Experiment. And that’s all right.

What’s wrong, then, is not an employee working in the company, but when an intern works on the company.

Working on the company means hunting. It means building things and making sales and forwarding a vision. And interns need not be responsible for those objectives. After all, they’re temporary and inexperienced and without proper resources.

So if you’re hiring an intern, do assign them appropriately. Give them admin work or “observation” rights or some other sh*t nobody wants to do because it doesn’t grow the company. But if they’re helping build a bigger machine (and not just oil it), don’t call them an intern. Call them an employee.