A great post on the Onion depicts the plight of interns at Fischer Marketing. According to the article, “Supervisor Encourages Interns To Take On More Responsibilities Of 3 Full-Time Staff Members” the interns were told that the best way for them to get the most out of their internship was to take on as many duties as possible. The article goes on to focus on the fact that the interns, who are working for free, are encouraged to do the work normally assigned to employees earning $60,000/year or more. Of course, although no one will directly state that it’s mandatory, you definitely get the sense that any poor intern who decides not to take on tons more work, with no monetary compensation to begin with, simply isn’t working hard enough to get the most out of the internship.
Of course, the article is a bit of a farce – this is The Onion after all. Nonetheless, there were some all-too-real takeaways that came to my mind:
- This is a company focused on reducing cost, not on delivering value. Why on Earth would you want to have the most inexperienced workers in your organization doing tasks that are well above their skill level? Doesn’t that just result in a lousy product?
- No one is actually giving the interns any direction. It’s just a “Hey there’s something that needs doing and maybe you can go and do it.” The situation is most acute when it comes to interns who have little experience to draw from at all, but I’ve seen plenty of people who are left to flounder when assigned something new. Of course, these folks either give up, burn out, or learn to game the system.
And, probably a few other instances of disrespect scattered throughout the story. I shared my thoughts on the difficulties of being an intern in some comments I left on the Catch Careers blog. In short, that interns are often left to bear the brunt of management styles that do more to de-motivate employees than to ensure motivation.
The really depressing thing, however, is that for every person who looks at the situation and sees ridiculous management abuses, there is at least one more who believes that the situation is normal and it is the responsibility of the intern to learn how to withstand the slings and arrows of such outrageous fortune. Simply put, there are interns who want nothing more than the chance to demonstrate just how much Bullshit they can tolerate, because they believe that’s what work is – and that they should be investing both their time and effort into Bullshit, with no realization that their time could be spent on something useful and productive.