Why you should take care of your interns

Why you should take care of your interns

Written by: Komail Mithani

April 27, 2010 7:15 pm 10 comments

A couple of weeks ago an interesting article in the American Express Open Forum discussed guidelines for how to get the most out of your interns. I completely agree with all the points presented in the argument because having a well planned structure in place for both your interns and the company will surely benefit both parties.

However, I am a firm believer in giving your interns some sort of compensation. Whether it be a stipend to pay for gas, free stuff meant to recognize the intern for his/her hard work, or ideally an hourly or weekly set amount. During my college career, I’ve been very thankful to have had several internship opportunities. Some came with notable compensation plans and others were unpaid. Before I move on, I want to make something clear, I am not saying an unpaid internship didn’t give me any valuable experience or shouldn’t be the main reason you chose not to take on a new challenge. My argument is for those businesses looking into an intern program to clearly examine the risks of not compensating their interns. The following is why you should have some money set aside for your interns:

We need the money

College students have bills to pay also. We are giving our time and energy to gain valuable experience/learn from the best in our industry. Unfortunately, this dedication hurts our wallets if no compensation is involved. We have lives outside of your company and bills our parents do not cover.

Your interns are adding to your bottom line

Many companies are asking interns to complete tasks in the executionary stage of a project. Many would agree these tasks are adding to a company’s profit margins and bottom-line as a company moves forward in the market. Isn’t that sufficient enough to say that your interns deserve something in return? Your business would probably not be where it is today without those passionate and hard-working interns executing strategies from long drawn board meetings and conference calls.


You don’t offer any of your services/expertise for free, so why should your interns feel they should offer their services for free? You don’t make money by giving away the essence that makes your company profitable. Whether we like to admit it or not, nothing is for free unless it is going to make someone rich someday.

Your interns are your PR

Think about all the things interns (college students) talk about publicly. Now think about where you go to recruit for new interns? If any intern is not happy with how your company treats them or doesn’t believe you are fully utilizing the intern’s time and passion, what makes you think they will speak well about your company? This is especially painful for a company that has hired an intern with a prominent online identity. Think about the repercussions one tweet, Facebook status update or blog post relating to your company’s intern program will reflect on your company as a whole and your reputation. (Hopefully this will not discourage a company from hiring an intern well versed in social media!)

Although, I understand it is a rough economy, it is also important to understand that your interns are a valuable asset. I’m not asking for unreasonable compensation plans, but something set aside so that it shows you appreciate your intern. They are as valuable as any other full-time employee you bring on board.

  • http://jennbollenbacher.com/blog Jenn

    I’ve had 7 or 8 internships in the last 4 years and only one has been paid.

    Now, most of them have been at nonprofits and I can understand why they can’t necessarily afford to pay me, and I knew that would be the case going in to the internship, but it’s still very frustrating to work for free. Especially when the company makes a point to treat you like an employee and give you the work of an employee but not pay you like one.

    Glad I’m ready for a paying job now!

    • kmithani

      Also, I think that it hinders a lot of qualified people from pursing those internships, which could give them valuable experience before graduation. I can’t tell you how many people I know graduating this year with no internship experience under their belt. Check out this article in the New York Times about the legality of unpaid internships: http://nyti.ms/9qctp4

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  • http://www.hillgod.com Nick

    I always loved when someone would try to pitch an unpaid internship to my CS classes. Always met with muffled laughter.

    Unless it’s for a trendy company doing open source (and in that case, they *can* pay you), unpaid internships would seem to get the worst talent. But you get what you pay for.

    I can’t imagine having done an unpaid internship.

    • kmithani

      It’s interesting how a reputable and profitable company offers unpaid internships. Especially in those fields where internships are highly competitive.

      Thanks for your sharing your experience Nick.

  • http://czech-made.blogspot.com Opelova

    I have had 3 unpaid internships so far. One of them was really bad because I was more of a coffee girls than an intern. :( I did those at time when I though I didn’t have much to offer and just wanted to learn (low self-confidence is a killer). But now, after all this experience with different internships, I know what I’m good at and that it’s worth some money.

    Anyway, I agree with all of those point you have made. If the intern is hard-working and the company has a profit out of his/her work, then there should be a reward of some kind.

    • kmithani

      Thanks for sharing Opelova. Glad to hear your internship experience has boosted your confidence and you know exactly what you can do. Most students can’t answer this question until after they graduate.

  • http://emdottie.com EmDottie

    Yes! We do need the money! BADLY! I’m tweeting this. I agree with every thing you’ve said.

    The internships that offer credit are ok. I would only focus on those during the summer though. I have two jobs I work to put myself through college. Usually if the internship isn’t paid, I decline unless I know there’s some type of future employment guaranteed.

    • kmithani

      Thanks for sharing my post with your Twitter followers and your opinion. I know many qualified students that have to turn down internship offers because they are unpaid. Makes me sad because the experience they could be gaining is so valuable. Also sad for the employer who is losing great talent.

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