I follow DcSocMediaJobs on Twitter and can’t help but notice that most of the listings are for either volunteer opportunities or internships. As someone who’s never had an internship, I admit I don’t know much about them, but from what I do understand about them, they’re sort of a two-way street: the intern gets to learns from experienced workers and the company gets some free labor out of it. Please feel free to correct me if that’s wrong.
Based on what my impression of what an internship is, I can’t help but think social media interns are probably getting a raw deal. After all, how many of the companies looking for social media interns have any staff at all who are experienced with using social media in a business context…or any context at all? I suspect not many, which is why they’re looking for an intern to begin with. From where I sit, it seems like companies who aren’t sure whether this social media stuff is going to stick don’t want to tap any existing staff to “experiment” with it and certainly don’t want to pay anyone to do it, so an intern is the perfect solution. After all, everyone knows that every young person has an innate knowledge of social media, right? So they look for an intern to come in, develop a social media strategy and start tweeting, Facebooking, and reporting results.
So, aside from doing what should be an actual paid position for free, what does the intern stand to gain from the experience if they’ll likely be the only one on staff who knows anything about social media? I mean, they’ll certainly get some first-hand experience with dealing with naysayers and change-averse staffers–which are definitely skills that will serve them well if they do end up pursuing jobs in social media. But what about learning from their experienced co-workers? Wisdom and insights gained from supervisors who have been there, done that and have valuable expertise to share? I’d be willing to bet that there will be precious little of that…in which case, what’s the point?