Monday, August 13, 2007

The Value of the Intern

While I was still in university, the Association for International Exchange of Students in Economics and Commerce enabled me to work as an economics intern for a large shipbuilding company in Gothenburg, Sweden. I will never forget the fantastic international business experience I gained, as well as the hospitality and generosity of my colleagues. So it’s no wonder that I am so passionate about Makovsky + Company’s Intern Program. Some wonderful young talent has been developed through it.

This week I am happy to introduce the special writing talents of one of our summer interns, Travis Ferber, a recent graduate of Washington University, in St. Louis, who describes his experiences here …

There are few people who have not, at least once in their lives, held an entry-level position in one business or another. Be it that first job in high school, a part-time post during college or the first “real” employment out of college, most of us know what it feels like to be on the bottom of the totem-pole. And there is rarely any other title which so strongly evokes the image of being squarely at the bottom of the pecking order as that of intern.
The word “intern” was, in my mind, associated with long hours spent photo copying documents, getting coffee and running to Staples to pick up paper for the printer — basically, the stereotypical stump on which the rest of the proverbial totem-pole rested. This view, however, was not altogether representative of reality.

This summer I had the opportunity to intern at Makovsky + Company — an experience which redefined my view of the word “intern.” At Makovsky I was given the opportunity to learn a great deal about the public relations industry from within a firm that treated me as a respected member of the staff. I was encouraged to ask questions, do “real” work, and become a member of various client teams; and while there was the rare occasion when I had to complete so-called menial tasks like scanning, data mining and binding, there were no races to Starbucks nor chains binding me to the copier. And even those tasks which are deemed menial are not without value, for, as I have come to learn, a business cannot function successfully without them.

It is lessons such as these which demonstrate the beauty of an internship — it is a golden opportunity to learn a field from the inside out. Interns can immerse themselves in a real-world, working environment, finding out not only if the prospective field is really right for them, but also what it takes to run a successful business. Yet, the benefits of an internship are not simply one-sided.

Companies can, and do, take advantage of interns, not as a bunch of cheap lackeys, but as additional (oftentimes tech-savvy) employees with distinct points-of-view who can contribute to the bottom line. And face it: we interns are the next generation of employees. There is a big incentive to find out which of us are a good fit for a company before anyone actually is hired, and an internship is a great way for an employer to do just that. Furthermore, once a decision to hire has been made, the transition from intern to employee is much easier than that of inexperienced grad to employee. Ultimately, those who have internship experience are more satisfied with their job and demonstrate a higher organizational commitment, so both the employer and intern benefit.

My internship has been terrific! I worked on client projects, helped with new business presentations, wrote some press releases, and actually got to call some reporters. Moreover, I come away with a greater understanding of the value of clear, conscious communications in business as well as life, and with the belief that an intern, like many starting positions, can be a valued member of a company despite being the at the bottom of the totem-pole.

To those employers who are contemplating or already have internships available: remember interns can be an asset to you, so do not treat them otherwise. For those students who have never thought of completing an internship, I would strongly recommend you consider it. My internship has been a great experience! And guess what! All the hard work paid off, for I was hired in mid-August — moving up one spot on the totem-pole from intern to employee!

Technorati Tags: intern, internship, Association for International Exchange of Students in Economics and Commerce, Gothenburg, Sweden, totem-pole, intern program, Washington University, business, communications, public relations


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