Hot! 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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1 Comment

  1. It has become really challenging for interns to obtain placements at organizations or in companies. Currently not many organizations or companies are willing to hire interns anymore, and this is due to lack of professionalism in the work place performed by some interns. Yes, it is true that CEO and private owner enjoy the free labour that interns give; however, in today’s era many organizations and companies are concern with hiring interns because of careless mistakes some interns make on the job. In my opinion , since internship is becoming much difficult to obtain, I believe that when one obtains an internship s/he should appreciate the opportunity given regardless if s/he is being paid or not. As an intern, with no experience or very little experience, when offered the opportunity to work in a company, your least concern should be “how much money” you will be making, and your focus should be on “what skills I can learn” that will be of benefits to me in my future career. The whole purpose of internship is to get job experience, acquire new skills, and improve in areas that require improvement. It appears that people often become discourage to perform their tasks the moment they feels they SHOULD be paid for their work. Do not get me wrong, considering the amount of work load interns get, it is a great idea to be getting paid for the task done.

    Nonetheless, the person should see that the experience and skills they are acquiring is more than the money. Money can be spent within an hour, but the experience, and skills one acquires stay with them forever. I am sure if the organizations and companies that take interns were to charge interns for the training they are given, interns will see that the experience they are getting is more than money, because then they will see that organizations and companies that open their doors for them is actually doing them a favour which is by helping them to improve their abilities to perform in a work field. As well, as an intern if you get hired at your placement it is good; however, one shouldn’t be discouraged either if s/he doesn’t get hired there. One should see it as an opportunity to make use of his or her new skills and to be an asset to other organization or company; as well an opportunity to acquire more proficiency. Conversely, it is to my surprise that any knowledgeable employer will tell a potential employee that “I can’t justify giving a job to someone who values their time so little that they would work for free.” I do not see anything wrong with someone willing to work for free. People have many reasons as to why they work for free; one specific and obvious reason is: without work experience or skills very minimum places are willing to hire you. And just because you work and you are not paid with “money” it doesn’t mean that you don’t value your time; in that time you gained skilled and improved in capabilities – therefore, no, it is not that you don’t value your time; to me it shows that you make valuable use of your time.  

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