Apr 27

Boss, can you spare a dime?

I've never met Marc Hausman, president and CEO of Silver Spring, Md., based Strategic Communications Group, but I disagree with his POV on paid internships.

April 27 Hausman doesn't pay his interns a dime, citing 'the economics of hiring and our ability to deliver value to a client.' He goes on to say, 'When we make an offer of employment, we are projecting future results based on a track record of performance.' So, I guess he figures all interns will perform poorly.

Hausman also believes trust must first be built between an employer and an intern '…who, in many instances, has little (if any) relevant industry experience.' Only after the experience has been gained will Hausman shell out some dough.

That's just plain wrong. First, it presents students with a classic Catch-22. They can't get paid until they've gained experience, but Hausman won't pay them to gain experience. So, rent, food, clothes and other basic staples will just have to wait. Second, I've met countless interns from schools as diverse as Northeastern and The College of Charleston to Fordham and the University of Vermont who've made an immediate, short-term impact on our business. And, we're happy to compensate them for their hard work.

We pay our interns $300 a week, which is hardly enough to help make ends meet. But, it is something. More importantly, it sends a message to our interns that we value their contributions.

I've always been of the opinion that you get what you pay for. If you want the best interns, dig into your pockets and find $300 a week to help them with room and board. If you want a student who's at her wit's end and willing to take anything, then stick with the pro bono strategy.

Hausman ends his article by referencing one erstwhile, unpaid intern who's risen through the ranks at Strategic Communications. That's great. I'm glad she was able to find the financial means to pay the rent while her employer decided if she was worthy of being paid. As for us, we've had scores of paid interns join us full-time and make their way right to our management committee. I'd like to think our willingness to provide a weekly paycheck from day one was the first step in that process.