Wick Communications

Making internships matter

In Management on June 22, 2017 at 3:48 pm

This week, we have a new face in the Half Moon Bay Review newsroom. She is Luz Gomez, and she is the best thing to happen to us since Dunkin’ Donuts opened down the street.

Luz will be a 10th grader in the fall at nearby Pescadero High School. She comes to us by way of a social services program in her community. I was more than happy to be included in the project: The agency paired high school students with businesses that interest them. Before she showed up for work, Luz had a week’s worth of training to learn appropriate behavior in an office environment and even CPR. She has been a jewel since the moment she walked in the door.

Normally, I get a summer intern from Stanford. These tend to be highly qualified, journalists-in-the-making. Some already have their bachelor’s degree and are working on a master’s from one of the world’s pre-eminent colleges.

Good as Luz is, she hasn’t had that kind of opportunity yet. So, it’s incumbent upon me as a manager to find appropriate, stimulating, fun and useful things for her to do. That, if you’ve ever managed interns, is often easier said than done. Consequently, some places treat interns as cheap or free labor. Interns are made to do the digital equivalent of 21st-century filing. Too often, interns are engaged in brainless activity that does nothing so much as convince them that the last thing they want to do is work in that field upon graduation.

Please don’t do that. For one thing, the school or organization that sends you the intern will hear that feedback and stop sending you interns. More importantly, though, you would be violating a sacred trust. We have an obligation to sell this business of ours to promising young people. Journalism is a calling and we have to help the next generation to hear it. …

With that in mind, a couple of ideas:

Ask interns what they want to do. Luz is interested in photography. So, as I write these words, she is out on assignment with photographer Jamie Soja, looking for a dog to feature in our monthly “Coastside Canine” magazine department.

Capitalize on millennial computer skills. I showed Luz how to update our website with stories from the newspaper and she instantly got it. That is a big help to me and trains her in an important job skill. (OK, this can be boring; I would never make this the highlight of her day.)

Treat interns as full members of the team. Add them to group emails. Make sure they are invited to staff meetings.

Give interns an array of experiences. If they can handle it, have them write for every section of the paper. Suggest spending a day with the circulation director or ad rep.

Make time for them. It’s entirely possible that having an intern creates more work for the manager. That is OK. The intern’s job isn’t to alleviate your workload; it’s to learn about an industry and kick the tires on a possible future job. You are sowing seeds, not harvesting.

I couldn’t be happier with Luz and hope she feels the same way about her summer gig. It’s my job to make it so.

Clay

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