Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Interns: the ethical debate

"I'd like a latte with extra foam non-fat organic milk with brown sugar, please." The lady standing in line behind rolls her eyes as she heard 5 more of these complicated orders rattled off by this young girl.  This girl however was not drinking any of these coffees - she was an intern and this was her daily "lesson" about the job she was working in for the summer, for free.

This is the typical stereo type of what being an intern is all about. But in actuality is this what really happens?  In my experience - NO.

Taking in an intern can be one of the most ethical business practices in my opinion.  This is because as a young student trying to get an edge on a very competitive workforce, internships are the only way that can actually give me real experience.  This should be taken with a grain of salt however, I only say this with internships aimed at teaching rather than profiting from cheap labor in mind.

Following I will expose the pro's and con's of taking on an intern and then how you can make a difference in someone's life if you do choose to help them out with a mentor mentee relationship.  The days of coffee orders and photocopying are soon to be over.


  1. You are giving a young student or someone looking to work in the sector an opportunity of a lifetime.  "Experience" is the hardest thing to earn and a prerequisite to most jobs for graduating college students.
  2. You have the opportunity to hire this intern after graduation - making an easy transition to your team.
  3. Your company can learn from the new interns fresh mindset and can advance through these observations.  A new intern asks very good questions because they can truly see from an outsiders view what is working and what needs changing because they haven't gotten used to any of the operations yet.
  4. An intern can be innovative and handle new projects that otherwise normal employees wouldn't have the time to handle.  It is a win-win, good experience for the intern and a great advantage for the company.


  1. If you aren't actually teaching the interns something, you are pretty much exploiting them for free/cheap labor.
  2. If you are doing such things then you are robbing a potential candidate of an actual job position not just an internship.
  3. Interns take time to train and explain the "why's" of your company.  If you don't have the time be careful of taking on an intern.
  4. Interns can become a liability if not properly trained.  As they have little to no previous industry experience letting them on their own can possibly wreak havoc as they little to no industry common sense.  How was I supposed to know that you don't give free drinks to a customer that complains?
Overall, the pros and cons of taking on an intern are very subjective.  Based off of the companies actions alone it could be one of the most ethical or unethical choices the company could make. This alone could make or break their efforts of becoming socially responsible.  I have the bias of currently being an intern so I would suggest to anyone thinking of taking one of us onto your team to do the right thing and give us a priceless experience - we will thank you for it later.  We are the future of the work force - shouldn't we have the best chance of doing it right?

P.S. To all the companies who have given me the opportunity to learn and thrive in my chosen industry, thank you for all the time you have spent with me teaching me the tricks of the trade.  I know it will pay off in the future!

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