Monday, April 16, 2007

Entitlement and Internships

My class recently had an interesting discussion on the feeling of entitlement some students/new grads may have as they embark on internships and entry-level jobs. This really got me thinking about my attitudes in the internships I've done. I realize that I have truly had this attitude of entitlement. It has been a struggle learning that I am really just an intern. I have so much more to learn. I think I've been really well-trained in the management side of things, but I need to learn to crawl before I learn to walk.

That said, however, sometimes interns are often relegated to the position of office gopher; doing whatever is asked of them:making copies, making coffee, doing projects no one else wants to, etc. A recent article in the April 2007 PRSSA Tactics highlights some of the challenges facing current PR interns. The article was written by Kathleen S. Kelly, Ph.D., APR, Fellow PRSA. Try as I might, I was unable to find an online version. Here are some highlights.

Dr. Kelly quotes a recent study (conducted by the Commission of Public Relations Education) which found that "many educators believe that the tasks performed by students during their internships do not provide adequate learning opportunities." While I completely understand that interns should not be doing high-level PR work, I think they should at least be exposed to it. My idea of an great internship is where the intern gets to do some of every aspect of PR in that organization (under close supervision, of course).

Dr. Kelly also discusses the issue of whether or not PR interns should be paid. Here's a couple of quotes from her article:

- "...only 36 percent of internships provide salary or stipends for student work."
- "Failure to compensate students for work is particularly troubling in the case of for-credit internships since students must pay tuition for all credit-hour work in colleges and universities"
- "'Unpaid internships are not jobs, only simulations. And fake jobs are not the best preparation for real jobs'" (quoting a New York Times op-ed piece by columnist Anya Kamenetz).

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