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Dear Companies, why you need to pay your interns

A while back, I came across a tweet requesting the president to jail all Employers who seek for “ 24-year old graduates with  6 years working experience” as a requirement for recruitment. I couldn’t agree any more.

Some of the qualifications these employers seek for are straight out of utopia. If you’re a fresh graduate, a glimpse of the job requirements are enough to send you into a bout of self-pity and depression. You’re left wondering where exactly these firms expect you to churn 6 years of post graduate experience from. Last time I checked, work experience is not something you pick  randomly on the street. Neither can you download it from Google Playstore or buy it from one of those online stores that seem to be sprouting every other second. It isn’t airborne. For you to get work experience, it is common sense that you must “work”.

Guys in the Creative field have a bit of an easier time scoring big jobs (all you have to do is impress), however for those graduating from the more “serious” fields, it is a nightmare. I am talking about those pursuing courses like Engineering, Architecture and Quantity Surveyors where you must undergo “mentorship” of some sort under a registered firm or professional in order to get registration. The journey is not always easy. Before you secure the coveted title, you will have gone through endless months of sweat, toil and empty pockets.

'As the intern, it'll be your job to work for free.'

Majority of people start their careers at internship level. This is one of the toughest but crucial moments. It either re-aligns your focus or shifts it entirely.  A number of careers have either been made or shattered during internship. I won’t go into the nitty-gritty’s of how and why this happens.

One of the biggest challenges interns face is the lack of compensation for services rendered. While most firms tell you out rightly that they are doing you a favour by offering training, I tend to think it is a bit unfair. Interns should be paid. Here’s why…


1. Motivation

Like it or not, monetary compensation plays a key role in motivating an individual. Even the laziest of persons will wake up before the crack of dawn and leave the office at 9 with the right amount on their pay-slip.  It is human nature. Maslow’s theory. Any individual works for the betterment of their lives. But suppose you are expected to deliver, yet at the end of the month you have absolutely nothing to show for your efforts? It is akin to feeding a cow that doesn’t produce milk, though in this case the farmer is better off since the cow can still be slaughtered for its meat. The individual becomes reduced to a barren mother who can only enjoy the warmth of repeated copulation as they can never experience the joy of bearing offspring. Unpaid interns are among the most unproductive lot. They are demoralized individuals whose energies have been sucked dry. The excitement they came in with slowly fades away. They become zombies who begin the countdown to 5pm  the moment they sit on their desks at 8am. They have no desire to change the manner in which things are done at the workplace; they will not share ideas neither will they dare lift a finger to do something out of the scope of their work. “After all, I am not being paid for this” is their daily chorus.

cheque2. Basic Needs

This point is closely tied to the one above. Contrary to what most employers imagine, interns are indeed human and they have financial needs as well. Their bus fare to work every morning needs to be catered for, they need to pay rent and eat too; they need money for the “official” attire you want them to come to work in. They do not teleport to work and back, neither are they watching their weight when you see them humped on their desks at lunch hour. It’s because they are dead broke. Some of them come from those families that drop you like a hot potato once your name is read out on that graduation list; to them, you are now a grown man or woman. So you can understand the financial pressure these interns have to cope with in the name of gaining experience. This is the reason why most of them jump ship into careers that they did not even specialize in just because they were offered some cash. Some very brilliant minds end up working as tellers in banks just because their rent needed to be paid and their engineering degree couldn’t help them out.

3. Productivity Reward

Interns invest a lot of time and effort in an organization. Most work the same if not more hours than the actual employees. More often than not, the very same employees tend to offload most of their workloads on the intern. Driven by the need to protect their reputation and to impress their superiors, the intern will burn their weekends and post office hours finishing up on the work. In most cases, interns end up having perfected the norms of work within a few weeks. It is therefore only fair that firms should review the progress of these interns and reward them accordingly. Even the good book advocates for the reward of work well done. At the end of it all, it is the firm that will benefit more from having excellent work if the hands of the person executing the work are well greased. Interns are more of a resource than a liability to a firm. It takes good management to realize this


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