Companies have had a bad press recently for exploiting interns but for many businesses and many interns the experience is very positive. In this post, originally written for Business Daily, we talk about what an intern experience has to offer to boss and successful candidate, and in particular the Articulate internship experience.
The boss’s story
Our multinational clients, including Microsoft and HP, regularly hire interns into marketing positions. Over the years, I’ve been really impressed with some of them and I’ve seen several progress into senior positions with great success. Interns are working well for them.
My businesses, Articulate Marketing and Turbine, aren’t as big as our multinational clients. But that doesn’t mean we can’t learn from them. So for the last few years, I’ve recruited several interns and it’s been an incredibly positive experience.
Teaching them about our work has taught me a lot about it. For example, a seemingly simple question about attributing quotations led to a lengthy discussion and eventually a project to write a house style guide.
I avoid recruitment and intern agencies, preferring a slightly more idiosyncratic approach. I advertise the position on my blog, on a website that covers my local area and at my old college. Candidates apply online with a bit of personal information and a short test that asks them to write a short piece of marketing copy to describe why I should hire them.
The people who can write well get an initial call from my PA who knows me very well and knows what I’m looking for and then a phone interview with me. That’s when I see if I can work with them and if they have the right level of curiosity, self-direction and technology know-how.
I believe that it is important to pay interns – you should pay people what they’re worth not what you can get away with – but the real cost is not their honorarium but the cost of time for mentoring and training. This is important because it’s essential to give them real client work to do (with supervision and support, of course). In my experience, good interns repay this investment with dividends by doing work that pays their way and by challenging me to think harder about the business.
I’d like to think it’s been a good experience for the interns too – they learned something about writing, editing, project management and marketing. One summer intern went back to university to continue his architecture degree. Another is now an editor at the Oxford University Press. And Clare Dodd has joined the team on a permanent basis as a copywriter and I’ll let her talk about her experiences.
The intern’s story
Landing an internship with Matthew was actually rather an odd instance of serendipity. I wasn’t a fresh-faced graduate. I was living in the States and still trying to carve out a career direction at the age of 26.
Like a huge number of graduates, upon completing my degree, I still didn’t know what I wanted to do. I looked into the traditional graduate recruitment path, but nothing seemed to grab my interest. The paths and programs are all very corporate, cookie-cutter roles, which talk a lot about fast-track and management, but never seemed to tell me what my specialism would be or what I would actually be getting better at doing on a practical level.
On Matthew’s internship description however, he had written, ‘this is an informal programme that will suit a rugged individualist rather than a corporate clone wannabe.’ He also outlined exactly the sorts of tasks I would be doing, on a day-to-day level. Exactly what I hadn’t seen up to that point. No promises of ‘great networking opportunities’ or a ‘chance to watch’, but actual hard grind doing copywriting. Brilliant.
The internship was exactly as advertised. He sent me detailed briefs for different types of copy, so that he and I could both get a feeling for what I had a knack for, where I needed to practice and what I did and didn’t know. Within the first couple of weeks, I saw my copy up on a blog. I was doing real client work from the beginning. I was also working extremely hard, because that is the intern’s side of the bargain as I see it.
Being paid was great, and proved Matthew wasn’t going to take advantage and get me just doing grunt work. His advice, feedback, recommended reading and interest in my professional development, however, was where the real value was. And it was only fair to him, and it was of more value to me too, to work as hard as possible to get the most out of it. And it paid off.
Now I’m a full time employee, I am still learning and there is still a conversational and development-focused grounding to our working relationship. I am loving what I’m doing, and the internship let me figure out that this is what I want to do, which I think, is the best thing an internship can do.