With 16 years of teaching at the executive level of business at several major universities, I have had my fill of students asking me to arrange internships for them. It’s one of the oddest parts of teaching, in fact. The reason it’s so strange for students to ask me to place them in an internship? It’s not my job. Not in my job description. Not in my time management schedule. Not something easy or simple to do.
In fact, during the one semester when I was hired by a university to lead its internship program, I learned enough to dispel me of any desire to arrange or manage placements.
Why? The students are rarely prepared to work. And, they don’t care to get into the disciplined, helpful, and deferential mindset that would be appropriate for their desired position as an intern.
From time to time, someone who has actually worked hard in class, not killed off anyone in their family to get an extension on homework, and earned an A asks for help. I have always done my best to place them. Called my contacts, picked up the phone and called executives at the companies they want to work for, and on occasion hired them for one of my companies.
It is almost always a terrible mistake. The two visas I paid for gave those interns the freedom to work at other US companies, or in one instance: stop working altogether but stay in the US. The second returned home to their country.
The last two interns I hired this year sapped the remaining fragments of sympathy or optimism out of me. The first one slept for hours in the lounge, ran up my tab at a bar, ate everything in sight at our company’s snack and drinks area, and showed up at 4 PM for a 10 AM meeting. The other intern stole my laptop computer, and simply never stopped talking in meetings – about things like whale mating, which has never been nor will ever be a topic of interest at any meeting I attend for business. He was also “addicted to snacks” and had an equally voracious appetite for alcoholic drinks on the company tab. This caused him to miss work because he “was so hung over.”
Note: I pay all our interns – no one works for me for free. It’s my rule.
So, that’s why employers hate interns. It costs a tremendous amount of time to get you up to speed. We have to deal with your school-age personal habits, school-age personality and lack of experience working with grown-ups. This seems to be true whether you are 22 or 33. Interns also bring crying, unlimited attention to their social media and excessive, petty personal complaints to the workplace.
This is the terrain you are on, if you are seeking an internship. It’s not you whom we loathe or reject. It’s our experience with nearly every other intern that you have to overcome.
The hard part of seeking an internship is not finding a company that would like to find, hire and groom quality interns for long-term work placement. The hard part is getting yourself into shape to actually work. And then somehow making it clear that you aren’t the same slacker intern we just survived.