THE INTERN, THE INTERNSHIP. AND THE BUSINESS WORLD

(Editors Note: The following paragraphs are fictitious. Any resemblance to actual events or persons is purely coincidental.)

The Intern brought in the cardboard box laden with specialty coffees and began to distribute to the group of men and women around the conference table. As the Intern recited the valuable beverage descriptions, “Caramel Latte half caff, half sugar”  “Vanilla Cappuccino no fat milk, sugar free” an order interrupted the distribution.  “You may put down the coffees, we have a job for you.  You are going to go into Editing Booth C and cull through the past 20 years of raw footage and interviews with Donald Trump. See what you can find, especially on his views of women and minorities.”

Quickly the cardboard box of coffees were left on the table and the Intern, used to taking mail, answering phones, and getting coffee, smile, as the time arrived toactually work IN THE BIZ. The Intern all but skipped down the hall and took the chair in front of the console, caressing the knobs and began the hunt.

Fast forward a Few Months:  A few hours into the day, as the Intern was deciding coffee or a Caffeine Jolt, a hot mic revealed two voices over video of a bus, what was said was heard loud and clear.  Ecstatic and rejoicing and wanting to be sure, the intern replayed the find. Smiled, and paused the screen.  A quick run down the hall, into the producers office, the Intern beckoned, “You gotta come see this.”  The trail of executives followed the Intern into the small editing bay.  With a flare, the Intern pushed the button and the video replayed.  The Executives smiled, high fived each other, and said, “Thank you, we will take it from here.  Please go and get us coffee.”

Internships, those valuable and sometimes hard to get positions in a company in your junior year of college, have been known to lead the way to full-time employment. It is also a conduit to make money, at least for the college, as the student pays the school for the honor to work in order to earn credits.  The college, in reality, does not have much outlay—except for an internship supervisor who may make one visit to the place of business to make sure the student is working.   It is also the easy and in-expensive way for a company to get the job done as some Internship positions work for free, or, if it is a benevolent company, at least minimum wage. 

When I first heard of “The Internship”  in the mid-1970s,  it was a new concept, as my Advisor said to me, “If you can find a company in your field of study and work for them over the summer, you can earn college credits--  12 credits for a full time position, 3 for a part-time position.”  There was no list of possible companies to approach.  It was up to me to find the job and establish the relationship and experience.

With the help of my mother, I did find an internship, almost immediately in the Public Relations Department of our local hospital where she was a Head Nurse. I met with the Director of Public Relations and together we outlined what would be expected. I came to that first meeting armed with notebook and pen in hand. Together, the Director and I wrote the job description, the expectations, and the outcomes.  I went home and wrote the proposal for my Professor, and sent a copy to the PR Director for his files. 

During the Internship, my responsibilities were to interview, write, edit and prepare the weekly in-house newsletter, write articles for the Quarterly magazine that would be due halfway through my summer experience, work with the graphic artist for the Magazine, and write media releases as needed.  The benefit was that I had my own 35mm camera and loved to photograph and develop my own photography.  I would be paid for the Internship, and accessible at all hours, with no comp time or extra compensation for any extra hours.  So when I stayed up overnight to interview and Photograph the Emergency Room Doctors and Nurses for the Trauma Response Drill, or when I spoke at the local Lions Club on behalf of the hospital, I did not receive any extra pay or day off. I also still had to report on time the next day.   On the plus side,  I did get dates with the ER Doctor and a reporter, and the Lions Club coincided with my 21st birthday, and the members helped me celebrate. Priceless.

Bottom line, as the Intern, I did not care. I was working in the Biz.  And it was quite the experience!  I had my own desk, phone, IBM selectric (yes, SELECTRIC) top of the line, and access to media. I made contacts!  I shared the office with one other person who responsible for Development—the asking for money.  So when the Board met, or we planned a fundraiser, I did get to assist and I did get to meet the movers and shakers –the money men—yes men—in our community. The bonus--networking and contacts for the future.

As for the responsibility for my grades and the 12 credits I would be earning, I kept a journal –aka diary—of my day-to-day experience. Oh, and my internship supervisor would visit with me and my supervisor, separately and together at least twice in the 13 Plus weeks I would be there. On my own, I determined to develop my portfolio, placing samples of my endeavors in a box under my desk when they were hot off the press: Copies of the weekly newsletter that I wrote, laid out and took to the print office in the basement of the hospital, waited for it to be printed, then divided and hand carried packets to each department and floor;  the magazine with my two articles including the interview for the introduction of Arthroscopic Surgery –an advancement in that day; and an article on the evils of smoking.  As for the journal/diary, I spent the night before the Professors’ visit, busily re-creating and remembering two months of work, changing pens and writing style to hide the fact that I did not complete that part of the agreement.

I did have great experiences.  I took part in a Quit Smoking class, although I never smoked, and vowed I never would after the display of  the black, falling apart lung of a 2-pack-a-day smoker, followed by the speech from a man with a breathing tube in his throat.  I was invited into the delivery room to see the birth of a baby.  After that experience,  I vowed that would never happen to me.  I broke that vow 3 times, but in my defense, I did never watch --opting for curtain screens so I could not see what was ‘going on down there.’ To this day, this hospital takes Interns from my college.  I feel that in some way,  I paved the way for the future generations of interns.

Internships have become common place, in fact expected.  My sophomore-in-college daughter recently, started planning for her internship in Junior year. Her college has a department solely for Internships.   Not only does she have the list of available companies to contact, the college has armed her with resume and cover letter, helping her craft these tools to their maximum efficiency.  She is invited to pave the way if she discovers a business not on the list in her field that will welcome an Intern—thus I assume—expanding the current college list.

Business has opened its arms to Interns as well. (Open arms notwithstanding when a sitting president opened something else with an Intern. Note, I could not start with one candidate and not mention another.  I am equal opportunity). Internships do introduce a student to the real world, hands-on experience.  But please be aware, it is a time and financial concern for the business who expends time and finances to train the Intern. That can be a big commitment for a business.

Let’s face it, college teaches the philosophy and the theory of business.  The real world does not work that way, and it is up to the business with an Intern to “show the ropes” and this is more than, “just go get us coffee missy.”  I have supervised many an intern, but it takes time on the part of the business to make sure the Intern is working properly.  In a press release, it is spelling, and single subject single verb.  In graphic arts,  although the Intern displays a beautiful and colorful portfolio of designs, that may be great, but, can it be printed?  Is there enough room for press grippers for bleeds, photography have the best resolution? And most of all, with the great design of die-cuts, varnish, inks, can it be printed economically?

I am envious of the opportunities for today’s students—whether they go to Career and Technology Schools, College or both, the synergy between educational institutions and business is very important to develop the workforce of tomorrow.  The combination of education, and hands on, real life experience in business as an Intern, leads to a life-long and rewarding career. 

Now excuse me, while I go find an Intern to fetch me a coffee.