by swaggerblog

Editor’s Note: Where Have All The Good Interns Gone?

I am not Anna Wintour, but you better believe I run Swagger New York like a devil in dunks. At just two years old, we’ve been able to accomplish a lot – 220,000 Facebook fans, mega music interviews, serious street style hits – but our rise hasn’t been all smooth. We’ve had our rough patches like any start-up, our fair share of “we have no money!” moments, but even worse, we’ve had a handful of interns from hell.

What is up with intern entitlement these days? I’m only 27, but it seems that kids who have just rolled out of their college beds and into the real world offices are carrying a career-breaking chip on their shoulders; one I can’t recall sharing just six years ago. At Swagger, I’ve had an intern go from telling me that she was “dying to work with a brand that was about providing experiences, and not ordering for coffee” to telling me (with no prior editorial experience) that she “could do a better job than I could at building the brand.” And the next semester, an intern tried hard to explain how he “just forgot” about a high-profile shoot we planned.

There’s no time to deal with that sort of crazy, so both kids were let go. And it doesn’t seem like I’m the only publisher facing youngin’ issues. Recently at The Wall Street Journal, an intern was fired for making up false sources at the prestigious paper which the WSJ was forced to embarrassingly rescind days later. And at the News Journal, a newly minted employee was fired before he even started, after sending out a boastful press release across the wire about his skills. The gall of 20-somethings these days is actually laughable at times.

What happened to busting your butt for an amazing experience? The days of wanting to get your foot in the door so badly that grabbing coffee was totally fine, as was sitting behind a computer as long as the Editor actually knew your name? In such a tough employment market, internships are the new jobs, so I, and the other Editors/CEOs, are going to need our unemployed (and sometimes under-experienced) staff to act like it.

As a business owner, I love the interns I work with, but I don’t feel that I owe them anything. I do, however, have a responsibility to help them learn and become successful within a cutthroat industry. I promise to make them work hard, to push them beyond their comfort zone in the field, and give them the tools and contacts they need to land a gig at Swagger, or at another major brand. To me, that promise is much more valuable than taking a check from a job that could care less about your future plans. But I will only stick my neck out for those who want to show up, be present at all times, and hustle; the interns who want ‘it’ for me and themselves. So no acting like you’re worth more than free just because you went to a $50k/year college (guess what: so did I), or not giving my brand your all because, after all, “it’s just an internship.” With that attitude, you’ll never make it in New York.

And if you think I’m wrong, feel free to take the jobs knocking at your door. But until you do, take a seat and let me teach you how to make it in America without your dad’s money.

*PS – All my current interns are rockstars. :)

-Sian-Pierre Regis


6 thoughts on “Editor’s Note: Where Have All The Good Interns Gone?

  1. Perhaps you got a bad batch of kids, but in this economy, let’s face it: A paying job is more beneficial than an internship, even if that job may have nothing to do with your career aspirations. Why? People need to eat.

    If you’re offering free internships, expect people who can afford to work for free applying to them. They may have an entitlement complex because they are in New York and able to work for no pay and no tangible, immediate benefits.

    But honestly, don’t say you don’t owe your interns anything. If you can’t treat them with respect, start hiring assistants. If the money isn’t rolling in like that, appreciate what you have. And let them know you do appreciate them.

  2. Well, I would say I don’t agree with Dari. I think that there are many people out there who “work for free” who also have other jobs to support themselves. Many industries basically require you to do internships to even get the kind of experience necessary to get jobs.
    I, being a 20 year old intern, know this very well. I think for anyone to go into an internship with little to no experience with the idea that they are owed something other than respect and knowledge is silly and unrealistic.
    True, a job outside of my field would benefit me in the short term. But when I’m 40, still stuck in that sucky job and thinking of all the things that I could have done if I’d only made sacrifices or worked harder to do what I actually loved, I’m not sure I will think of it that way.

  3. “make it without your dad’s money”. love it. AND i loved one of your current intern’s piece of Frank Ocean.

  4. It’s a shame that the interns you have had made a bad name for us students that don’t mind working and learning to get where we need to be in life. I believe these interns that you had didn’t know the opportunity they had. So I realized once I get out of school I have to be the peasant that runs around and do all the grunt work but to me hard work and the willingness to learn goes a looooong way!

  5. I couldn’t agree more. This year I humbly became a 29 year old intern after 10 years of solid design and marketing experience. I’ve had my eyes on the company I wanted to work for for over 3 years and after endless applications with no call back, I found myself walking in the back door through an internship. I’ve worked my ass off, swallowed my ego and now, 7 months later have been hired into the company as a full-time employee. Simultaneously, I’ve watched the 20 year old interns mope, whine and complain as they feel they are entitled to a $60k salary and endless vacation. When it came time to hire, I got it, they didn’t. I’m pretty sure that my attitude of “I’ll prove my worth”, and the fact that I was willing to laugh at myself (despite crying inside!) at my “intern” position at this age is why I’ve been hired.

    I think the word “intern” should be banished. Instead, the position should have a title capturing the essence of “I’ll work for pennies because I want it THAT bad”. With the jobless rate the way that it is, these experiences should go to those that are willing to work for it, not to those that have a golden diploma and think the world owes them something because Daddy told them so.

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