Who are really the ‘entitled’ ones here?
NationalPost.com – Full Comment
15/10/13. John Moore
In the pilot episode of the TV series Girls Hanhah — two years out of university — is told by her parents that they will no longer support her financially. She goes to her boss at the firm where she has been interning without pay for a year and asks to be hired. “We’ve really enjoyed having you, Hannah,” he replies. “Good luck”.
For a goodly portion of the millennial generation, that’s just another day at the office. They are educated, but also exploited, broke and relentlessly mocked as lazy and entitled. Is it any wonder millennials are becoming disenchanted?
The institution of internships is a perfect illustration of how 20-somethings are trying to cope in an economy that has been gamed against them. Internships are no longer about trading one’s time for mentorship and opportunity. They’ve become the new serfdom.
I can speak to the efficacy of old school internships; almost everyone in my business is the product of one. I volunteered my time for three months under the direct supervision of an accomplished radio professional. In the end, I got the job.
In today’s job market internships are a means of squeezing free labour out of qualified workers whose only other option is making $8 an hour serving $4 coffees at Starbucks. When interns dare suggest their labour might be worth something their “employers” scold them about having a bad attitude and insist there’s a line up outside their door of people who would do anything for the same opportunity. Sadly, those managers are often right — interns are expendable, thanks to a dire economy for which today’s youth are blameless.
Consider two stories told me by my listeners. Frank was taken on by a major Canadian telecom company in its “Professional Management Program.” For months he worked nine to five, Monday to Friday, doing customer service evaluations which often involved travelling to the company’s storefront operations. His supervisor was another intern. He rarely had contact with real managers. At four months he was told there were “no immediate hiring opportunities” but they would very much like him to stay on as an intern. He quit and was given a certificate attesting to the fact that he “showed leadership qualities.”
‘Volunteers don’t apply for real positions’
Helen is another case. She was told she needed current work experience on her resume. She worked without pay for six months in a major company until a job position became available. She applied and was flatly told by her supervisor “volunteers don’t apply for real positions.” Helen now has 14 months of unpaid work on her resume and was recently told by a potential employer, “I can’t justify giving a job to someone who values their time so little that they would work for free”.
Is it any wonder that young people are cynical about their place in the social contract? It might be somewhat less of an indignity if the insults weren’t being handed out by a generation that has been very careful to lock in its own entitlements. It’s bad enough that some CEO’s are being paid 200 times the salaries of their lowliest employees. How does that look to the unpaid intern?
Clear goals must be set and evaluated by managers who mentor, rather than supervise
There’s a growing movement for government to regulate internships just as it does other aspects of the job market. The duration of internships needs to be clearly set. Interns should never perform services for which others are paid. Clear goals must be set and evaluated by managers who mentor, rather than supervise.
When the employment plight of today’s young people came up recently on my show, one of my radio colleagues did the usual number on millenials, calling them feckless and self centred. Not long after I received an email from a young listener. “I would have called in,” he wrote, “but I was too busy answering business emails while taking the bus between the two jobs I hold down to pay off my student debt.”
Today’s youth know the score, and who the real “entitled” are. It’s not the interns. It’s the people “hiring” them.
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