Intern advice

Subject: Intern advice
From: Heather Searl <heathers -at- ASTOUND -dot- COM>
Date: Thu, 20 Feb 1997 16:43:50 -0500

ERIC RAY wrote:
>Would you rather have your students intern at Mongo, Inc., or a three
>person startup company. Why?

Guy McDonald wrote:
>Better for students to intern at MONGO, Inc. *Even if* the startup company
>consists of 3 technical writing gurus.

I can see both sides of the argument on this one. I graduated from university having completed 6 4-month work terms (5 of them writing related), and I now hire students and interns regularly.

On my work terms I worked for a couple of the most-MONGO corporations there are, and also for a 2 person company. Personally I think experience at a small company can be more valuable, but I have noticed that a lot of people are attracted to MONDO corporations on a resume.

The Mongo names on my resume have opened the door to more than 1 interview for me, but I learned diddly-squat while I was with those companies. I once photocopied for 2 weeks straight because someone wanted offsite backups of a billion files. Another term I would go home having only mailed a letter for my boss that day. Training for students at these companies was limited to a class on the phone system, e-mail system and some word processing software.

At the 2-person company I learned more in 4 months than in the rest of my work terms combined. I prepared quotes and proposals to try and get projects for the company, was exposed to the ways different clients did things. I outlined manuals, wrote manuals, wrote marketing materials and on and on. This company sent students on training courses and to STC conferences when appropriate.

So while the big names on my resume have earned me an interview or 2, the experience at smaller companies on my work terms and since graduating has gone further toward getting me the jobs.

When I hire interns I keep the same thing in mind. I look for students who have good experience -- no matter where they got it. Students with previous work terms with small companies where they did a bit of every kind of writing available, rank high in my list of prospects. And I am more likely to hire a student who managed to learn anything from a dead-end job than someone who had the right title at a big name company last work term but can't come up with much to say about it on his/her resume.

And when I hire students (usually at a university or college level) I make sure they are functioning as a full team member while they are here. They are expected to be able to accomplish as much in 4 months as any new hire would be able to -- and I haven't been let down yet. It's a win-win situation for both of us -- and I can do my own photocopying.

Heather Searl
Documentation Manager
Astound Incorporated

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