Una's Blog


48 Internships – sink or swim?

graphic-4by Una Hearne.

Interning should be a part of the structure of the world of work. It goes without saying that it should be ethical, worthwhile for everyone involved and fair.

It is a risk for a company to take on a permanent employee because if it doesn’t work out it costs the company a lot of money. A certain amount of risk is inevitable in any business but too much risk, especially in the high cost area of people, can push a company out of business. And that’s not generally good for anyone.

It is a risk for an individual to take a permanent job because if it doesn’t work out it can cost the person a lot of money and far more importantly, stress and maybe other opportunities.

You wouldn’t buy a pair of trousers without trying them on for size. Why would you enter into a binding contract without trying it out for size, seeing if it works for you? This is the idea with probationary periods but they are generally only activated in the most extreme circumstances.

What if there was a way of ‘trying it on for size’ in work without either the company incurring huge recruitment fees or the individual a bad reputation? What if it was perfectly normal to try out a few jobs for a matter of weeks or months before settling on one? What if there were internships available in every company, properly paid, real work positions, working shoulder to shoulder with permanent staff. Internships that always have a turnover of staff going through. The company could pick the best of the crop passing through and individuals could try out different jobs and organisational cultures in a meaningful way.

This would dispense with the whole pretence aspect of a lot of interviews ‘I’ve always wanted to work in your company and I’ll be committed for the rest of my life.’ Wouldn’t it be a relief to say ‘I like the look of your company and I’d like to get a real feel for it.’ What if interning was recognised as individuals exploring and developing and not as a gap or failure in their CV? It would also mean the company can see you in action and decide if you are indispensable to them, on the contact list should an opportunity arise or let you go without all the palaver.

I know all this requires a huge attitude, culture and system change. I’m not saying it’s easy or could happen overnight. I’m just saying it could be done. Wouldn’t it be nice?


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