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Internships in AdLand: Excessive?
By: Dwayne W. Waite Jr.
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There has been much ado about the role internships now play in the American economy. Yes, a recent report on NPR called its segment "the Internship Economy" because of the pervasive use of them and the impact they are having on our economy.

If we had to nail down an industry that loves its interns, it's the communications industry.

When we were going through high school, our counselors stressed the importance of internships. Not only did internships provide the experience that one wouldn't get in the classroom (which is another story), but it also opened a professional network and got your face in front of those people who would probably be making the hiring decisions when you were ready to look for a job.

When we were in college, and on the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) Executive Committee, we worked with the parent organization, PRSA, to emphasize to its member organizations the importance of providing paid internships; forcing a student craving experience to work for free was unfair. Even providing college credit was acceptable.

Sadly, that is not the norm.

We were fortunate that every internship we received was paid. Even for the interns we gather for our agency, we either provide a stipend, allow flexible work hours, or work with the universities to get these students course credit (some courses are worth $300–$600 a credit, which is ridiculous).

But then we heard of companies using "internships" for people out of school, in their 20s and 30s, trying to get their foot in the door. 

Interesting.

Believe us when we say, it is taking a lot for us to cast judgment on such seemingly abusive uses of internships. That was the first time we heard of such a method, so until thoroughly proven we cannot deem it as truthful or regular. 

The communications industry (entertainment, too) has made it a priority to use interns regularly. That's not a bad thing. It gets dicey when we get to the implementation of them. Interns cannot be an avenue for free labor, nor can they be expected to carry on in that fashion without clear communication about the process.

Interns are good, but they should not be a crutch for organizations to patch in for project work; it has to be a relationship. Help them grow, pay or provide credit if possible, and be a resource for them. Internships are a great way to mentor future talent. 

Abusing that avenue is good for no one.


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About the Author
Dwayne W. Waite Jr. is partner and principal at JDW: The Charlotte Agency, a marketing and advertising shop in Charlotte, NC. He enjoys consumer behavior, economics, and football.
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