You don’t want interns. You want cheap workers who will do your dirty work.

How some managers are ruining the intern-mentor relationship.

“Just get some interns. They’re cheap.”

I've heard that advice given quite often since I began my career. Heck, I might have even given it myself to a fellow overworked colleague at one point. Though, unpaid or low-wage internships that provide useful experience have their place in the world, the benefits of hiring interns are all too often skewed dramatically in the favor of the hiring manager with no regard given to what an internship truly means: being a mentor to someone.

“What menial tasks do I not want to do?”

That’s the primary question a vast majority of hiring managers think first when they decide to hire interns. All too often, the tasks assigned to an intern are so menial and tedious, they end up providing little insight into the career path they've chosen. As a Marketing Manager and having interviewed my fair share of candidates over the last half-decade who've had previous “internships” related to the field, I've found myself flabbergasted at how unprepared and unknowledgeable these candidates have been.

What exactly are other managers making these interns do on a daily basis that make them no better off than before their internship started? Writing support documentation that a Technical Writer should be doing or blindly posting social media updates are the most common tasks interns seem to be assigned to in my field. Do any of these truly make the intern a better Marketer? Doubtful.

“Any exposure to the business world is good exposure.”

That’s an excuse a Senior Director made at one point. Is business world exposure good for a college student or recent graduate? Sure. But when managers make the statement above, they’re really just trying to justify the mind-numbing, tedious chores they've chosen for their interns. Using sound bites they've heard over the years, like the above, some managers feel their bland plans for interns are justified as they’re not the only ones using these statements.

Other common lies Managers tell themselves:

“I was ‘abused’ as an intern myself. Now they have to earn their stripes.”
“I don’t make the interns get me coffee. I’m a good manager.”
“I don’t have time to spend a couple of hours a week to mentor them.”
“If I give them the important tasks, what am I going to do?”

If you ever find someone making the last statement, please ask them to stop hiring interns. The entire point of an internship is to speed the learning curve of new workers in each field. If a manager’s job security worries are contributing to an intern not receiving the full exposure to their chosen career path, then that manager does not deserve to have interns to begin with.

If a manager is looking for someone to do their menial tasks, they’re looking for contractors, not interns. There’s a big difference between the two.

You should tell me your thoughts on Twitter.
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