The process of hunting for, securing and ultimately completing an internship in a desired career field has evolved into a stressful reminder of the hurdles that await potential job seekers post-college graduation.
The recent release of the summer blockbuster, “The Internship,” starring Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson, glamorizes of one the business world’s most sought-after internships while lampooning the plight of two 40-year olds who land a college tech geek’s dream job – internships at Google. In the current business landscape, the movie’s premise might not entirely be Hollywood fiction.
Michael Crom, executive vice president of Dale Carnegie Training, evaluates trends in the business world, often working with companies to assess both paid and unpaid internships. As a leader of a global performance improvement, assessments and training company, Michael has seen the importance of internships, for both employer and intern, grow mightily in recent years.
“The Internship” is Hollywood satire, but is it reasonable to believe that companies could start hiring interns who aren’t college-aged?
I think you may see some older people doing it if they make a career transition. Not all employers will accept someone who is not a college-aged intern, but there are those that would take a 40-year old intern and benefit from it. Sometimes if you’re laid off, for example, you might have some continued compensation and it might give you a few months to take an internship that is unpaid.
How have internships evolved of the last decade?
I think with the financial crisis, internships became more and more important. In some ways companies began to rely on interns in lieu of full-time and part-time people as a way to fill in some of the gaps that were created by the economic pressures. Many companies are putting a heavy emphasis on using this a screening tool.
For companies that hire unpaid interns, how can they fulfill legal obligations while ensuring a worthwhile internship?
They need to be very cognizant of the legal criteria. Ultimately the internship is a benefit to the intern. But it shouldn’t displace regular positions. An additional obligation is, whether they are paid or not, is that you are there to help them grow and not take advantage of them.
What’s the best way for interns to make sure they aren’t overwhelmed by the increased expectations companies have?
Interns should work with their employer to establish an understanding of expectations. If you can open those lines of communication you’ll be productive as an intern. The critical factor is keeping your attitude right. You’re not coming in complaining and whining about this overload, but you’re coming asking if you can clarify. It’s a healthy opportunity for employers to learn as well and understand the right and wrong ways to work with people.