October 23, 2009

Interns - If You Use Them, PAY Them...

It's been nearly two months since I have posted something, and for some reason, I haven't been that upset about it. I've actually been enjoying sitting back and reading others' thoughts, just taking it all in.

However, in reading something today at lunch, I felt compelled to write a post about a topic about which I have a lot of passion - internships. Specifically, paid vs. unpaid internships.

I was reading a post by Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban on his blog, and it almost made my blood boil... Cuban is frustrated that he can't hire a bunch of unpaid interns to produce videos, compile statistics, etc. that could then be distributed widely to news outlets and bloggers across the world. I actually like the idea he has here in terms of developing the content and providing it to people, but I REALLY don't like how he was trying to make it happen.

Personally, I believe interns should ALWAYS be paid, even if they're getting college credit for their internship. Why? It's simple. If someone that you decide to hire (whether they're an intern or an employee) is doing work that is benefiting the organization, they deserve to be paid for the work they're doing.

Many times, interns are college students who are taking a summer to get experience leading up to a career in a chosen field. They're dedicating their summer to working for your organization/company, building their skills for their future, and foregoing the opportunity to have another job to make money for their upcoming school year. They're dedicating themselves to you and working hard to make sure they're getting the best experience (and a good reference), thus helping your organization succeed. Yet, all too often, companies and organizations don't pay these people. It's just wrong.

A couple other observations: how engaged can someone really be at work if they know they're not getting paid? How happy can they be? How much real productivity can you expect from someone who's not getting paid? Imagine that you had to go to your office for a full week and knew you weren't getting paid anything. Would you put as much effort into your job that week? Now, imagine 12 weeks of 40 hour work weeks not getting paid, but being expected to work hard and benefit the company/organization... Yeah, not real appealing is it?

You want the people who are interning for you to be inspired to do good work, right? You want them to enjoy coming in and feel as though they're having a positive experience, right? Then pay them.

Relating this back to associations, I know many non-profits and associations don't have a lot of excess money lying around to pay interns. I get it. However, I also get that there usually is enough to pay them something, even if it's a monthly stipend for their housing and meals... Do something for these people who are dedicating themselves to making your organization better for 12 weeks. Be an advocate for them. They deserve it.

So, no matter whether you're like Mark Cuban and have a lot of money, or are a small association and don't have much at all, I urge you to think about the interns you're hiring and how you'd feel working for nothing for 12 weeks...

Ok, my blood is back to a simmer, so I'm done.