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.

Sep 25

The misery never ends

September 25 - newspaper

I just visited the College of Charleston Thursday and Friday, attending board meetings, delivering lectures and participating in panels. I love the C of C. It's a beautiful campus with bright, alert students. 

As might be expected, most of the students said finding a good job was their number one pain point.

I shared my job search/interviewing strategies, but also heard some smart tips from fellow advisory board members I thought worth sharing, including:

  • Think global. Relocate to the hot markets that have jobs, such as China. Spend a few years there gaining experience and leverage it to come back home to your ideal job.
  • Demonstrate a basic knowledge of how business works. (Note: this doesn't seem to be an age-specific problem since the Council of PR Firms routinely reports the 'lack' of such knowledge is the number one criticism of agencies by their clients).
  • Learn a second language. With American's rapidly-changing demographics, fluency in an Asian or Spanish language or dialect can be a huge plus.
  • Master writing and, in particular, writing on deadline. PR demands multitasking and PR pros must be able to write quickly, clearly and consistently.
  • Be willing to do whatever it takes. If assigned grunt work, be the best possible grunt.

That last point prompted one young lady to raise her hand. She'd just finished an internship and, frankly, didn't care for the grunt work. "When will the misery end?” she asked. “Never,” I responded. “The misery changes as one moves up the food chain, but it never goes away. It just becomes more intense.” I don't think she cared for my answer.

Another student disagreed with my advice on job interview preparation. “Do you have any idea how busy we are? We don't have the time to do all the research on a company that you suggest we do. Besides,” she said, “That's what the internships are for. You learn about the company when you get the job.” I wished her well and suggested she had a real Catch-22 situation on her hands since a company won't hire a person who hasn't demonstrated the time or energy to learn about them in advance.

The students were fully engaged in the lectures, grateful for the advice and will, I'm sure, do very well once they hit the real world. I just hope they come prepared and accept the fact that the misery never ends.