Editor's Note

Stephanie Stroud 

Before the school year wraps up this spring, some of you may have the words “hire an intern” scribbled on your to-do list. It may seem like a great way to get work done affordably, but there are numerous other benefits to having young people in the office: fresh perspective, new ideas, and lots of idealistic energy.

This year, I worked as an Americorps volunteer. Going into the program, I knew that I would have to accept the pay decrease, but that I would be gaining an experience that was well worth the sacrifice. Fortunately, I have the privilege and the interest to pursue that option, as many young professionals who take internships in our profession do (how we can reach those who do not is another matter to consider).

Here are a few things that I learned and noticed as an intern, and they won’t apply to everyone, but may provide some benefit or insights for those considering taking or creating an internship:

  • We appreciate working independently and creatively:  Our generation spawned Google and Facebook and other techy companies that operate in highly-productive, loose work environments, where creativity is valued. We are all aware of how those efforts worked out. I find young people respect guidance and instruction but also value independence to work creatively and collaboratively. I’ve really enjoyed working with other people in the office on projects who I wouldn’t normally work with, taking meetings outside or in coffee shops, or just spending an afternoon sketching through an idea.
  • Young people can help with social media: Sure, this may seem like a no-brainer, as young people tend to use social media more to communicate regularly, but it can be tremendously helpful for a firm or organization that is looking for advertisement on the cheap, or to find others to collaborate with, or to stay relevant and informed. Each social media platform has its unique culture, with subtle nuance of language and technique, and young people tend to understand what those cultures are, since we’ve been getting our information this way since we can remember.
  • Interns are motivated to learn, and appreciate any advice, tips, and information: One of my favorite parts about being an intern is learning about my colleague’s careers, and how they found them, and what has inspired them. Standing at the beginning of your career journey is pretty scary; there are an endless amount of different paths to take, you don’t know what’s up ahead, and everyone is telling you something different. What is tremendously helpful is having someone that you trust and understand to point out things that they find helpful. On one of my first days as an intern, my mentor brought me to a previous project site. Seeing a built example of our team’s work was a great way to visualize what we were working towards, and to also understand the kind of projects that I wanted to work on. I also appreciate when my supervisor lends me a book to read. That type of hand-selected advice is appreciated when you’re wondering about how to best use your time to improve your skills. I also had an afternoon with an old boss where we went through a book of his favorite landscapes in Europe. That was years ago, but it was a meaningful experience.  
  • Field trips and opportunities to learn help with the lack of pay: Educational opportunities, meeting other young professionals, meeting older professionals, going to project sites, attending conferences, etc. are great ways for us to network, vent, learn, decompress, and get inspired. When you’re making just enough to get by, this is highly-appreciated and really helps with the whole figuring-your-life-out thing. 

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