2014-06-08

The 5 Interns That Give a Bad Name To Everyone Else

An intern is defined as a student or trainee who works, sometimes without pay, at a trade or occupation in order to gain work experience. Simple, don't you agree?
A clear-cut exchange of services between an establishment looking for additional (wo)manpower and an individual seeking to put themselves on the line in exchange for some notches on their belt.

My experience has taught me otherwise. In fact offering internship programs or accepting interns into any company is a far more delicate task than what we are led on to believe.
There are fine intricate mechanic at play here that on the surface might seem quite similar to the normal recruiting process of a full time employee but not quite if you dig-in deeper.

Internships can be excellent means to discover and acquire talents fresh out of grad schools. They are very useful to alleviate pressure when your staff is stretched out too thin in growth periods, or when the business cannot justify the extra expenditure in human capital.
Bringing in new blood into a team can always shift things around even if the intern is often not taken too seriously by the veterans.
Through my long years working in the telecom sector I have had exceptional interns who played key roles in helping us "take that baby home" when projects were running on very tight deadlines.  And then you have "the others". So how do we actually end up having these others on our hands?
  1. The Hand-Me-Downs:
    Someone knows someone who knows someone who knows someone higher up on the food chain, and that big fish just decided that the flimsy fluke who cannot stop giggling and putting pink ribbons in her hair would be a great addition to a team consisting of hardcore coders. In a country like Lebanon, one of the "someones" mentioned above is bound to be either politically affiliated or part of one of the neo-feudal families in our pseudo-westernized society.
     
  2. The Razzle Dazzle:
    There's always that someone who can put up the greatest show on earth during an interview. While this is usually all they are good at it's often good enough to allow them to pass through the cracks by what seems like sorcery. You are then stuck with them or the duration of the internship if you are not empowered enough to cut them loose. Ah, where is Gandalf when you need him...
     

  3. The Pity Intern
    Every now and then, in some murky corner of a night club or a cafe, you will run into that shabby looking worker that will strike up a conversation, then round up their eyes and tell you how they are working hard to make ends meet in the hope of making a career at some point when they graduate.
    You'll feel sorry for the little thing and try give him a break. Don't!
    An intern is not a protege and you are not a mentor, unless they can bring some added value to the business you will only be spending your resources on someone who is just an opportunist.
        


  4. The Johnny Bravo
    More interested in impressing members of the other gender this person is always trying to be the hero. Under-qualified and overzealous, they will always take on tasks that are just way out of their league so they can brag about it later to their person of interest. It's an accident waiting to happen not to mention a walking closet with perfumes, ribbons and all the works.
     


  5. The SKIA
    SKIA is short for stubborn know-it-all. This intern is often the biggest disappointment of them all. They often possess great potential but somehow are too busy hearing themselves talk than listening to others. If the whole purpose of internship as we said is an exchange of expertise and (wo)man-hours then this internship is often dead before starting. An intern not willing to listen and not willing to change their mind once they do are just better off becoming freelancers (more on those in a previous post here)
     
The truth of the matter remains that when external factors such as corporate and political agendas are set aside, the selection of an intern is often flawed due to the very nature of the position itself.
Internships are transitory, non-permanent positions, most line managers in businesses are not willing to spend enough time screening the candidates and conducting proper interviews. This allows for several false positives and often leads to frustration down the line. The intern should also be aware of what job they are being handed and whether it fits their profile and more importantly their aspiration. It's not mandatory to accept any internship offered as it is not mandatory to accept any intern being forced on you.

I, for one, would rather not have those extra helping hands if they come with a price tag as high and as frustrating as with those mentioned earlier.