Internships, or how it always used to be known – work experience – has been in the news a lot recently. Nick Clegg was accused of hypocrisy after he said that nepotism should be banned, only for it to be revealed that he’d received experience that way 20 years ago; many commentators have said that unpaid internships should be a thing of the past – advocating the minimum wage instead; they’ve been accused of being the primary reason why the elite remain at the top; and now a well timed book has been published – Intern Nation by Ross Perlin, which tracks the seeming growth of the internship cult.
One thing that I haven’t seen mentioned is how employers view the nepotistic intern – i.e. the one who’s there only because their parents know (or are) someone important in the firm. I’ve worked with lots of these people over the years, and without exception they were all look on with derision &/or pity – what employer wants a free-loader in their team, or even worse – one that’s still doing what his/her parents tell them to do?
I’ve worked with lots of work experience students that have really made a positive impression on the workplace though, and these students were the ones who had got their place by following the official selection processes, or built their own opportunity via tenaciously contacting and persuading people.
Work experience is really important for developing skills, confidence, and self awareness, but is only truly useful if the intern got there due to their own hard work.