Re: What Does One Do With A Tech Writing Intern

Subject: Re: What Does One Do With A Tech Writing Intern
From: "Paula Passarella" <papassar -at- edisto -dot- cofc -dot- edu>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Sat, 19 Jun 2004 10:05:26 -0600

I graduated from college last month, and in the past year I?ve done two
internships. The first one was for a nonprofit organization researching
and writing a medical booklet, and the second was for a Fortune 500
company as a part of their web content team.

>From both my experiences I learned a great deal, but I know the second
company benefited a lot more, and it was because they embraced me as part
of their team, gave me meaningful work, and invested time training me.

The first difference was the way I was hired. I was offered the first
internship during my interview. The second one took three rounds of
interviews with different people, a lunch with the bosses, a drug and
background screening, and a detailed look at my transcript. This made it
was clear from the beginning that the second company expected much more
from me, and that I wouldn?t simply be doing tasks nobody else wanted to
do. I was valued from the start, and was expected to be capable of pulling
my own weight so that the experience would make sense for both of us.

The second internship was filled with very talented people who, like
somebody already said, did not give me jobs that they just didn?t want to
do. I was not their cheap labor, even if I did get assigned easier, more
self-contained tasks than the full-timers took on. I had my own desk,
computer and phone, a batch to get me in the building, and my own email
account. I was no different from entry-level employees except I worked
part-time and probably got paid less. At the same time, they did assign me
jobs that they could have done faster and better than me, and spent extra
time revising it and explaining how to do it. They could have finished the
task much faster, but they understood that if they spent some time
teaching, I might learn to do it alone (which I did) and eventually be a
real help.

So if you get an intern, make sure you are prepared to spend time with
them. If you find the right intern, you will not be wasting that time,
because they will learn quickly. Remember that if you hire a college
student, learning is what they do best. Untouched by past work
disappointments and cynicism about office politics, I was endlessly
grateful for the opportunity, and excited to be there every single day. In
fact, I thought at first the internship was unpaid, and would have been
just as happy to do it if it had (even though I would have had to stay at
my part-time job to pay my bills).

My recommendation is that you respect that enthusiasm and not crush it.
Give interns work they can learn from, and encourage them to give you
ideas. I wrote several documents that I felt were needed. Not all those
documents ended up being used, but they were all reviewed and given
attention, and one is now used throughout the company. You can keep an
intern happy and motivated by giving him/her challenging work, some
attention, and a word of encouragement (I always got a ?You are awesome!?
email back whenever I submitted my finished assignments to my boss, and
that alone kept me going).

I was not offered a full time job when my second internship ended because
the company was on a hiring freeze. But my boss has told me several times
me how much they wish they could hire me, and asked that I stay in touch
so they can make an offer when the opportunity comes along. I have started
a full-time job somewhere else two weeks ago, and although I am loving it,
I can?t see myself ever feeling as much loyalty and enthusiasm for this
company as I did for the one I did my internship at. That is a lot of
commitment to give an organization, and you owe it to your interns to give
them the same back.


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