I know this post isn’t going to be popular with some folks, but over the past few years the word “internship” has been getting thrown around the internet marketing space like candy off a float at the Thanksgiving Day Parade. There are conversations all about how to get a virtual assistant for free just by offering an “internship” program. And it annoys me. It frustrates me. It kind of makes me want to slap someone.
Unfortunately, the term internship is being used very loosely and a lot of people are abusing the entire concept, because they just want someone to work for them for free. They aren’t teaching them things. They aren’t helping them. They certainly aren’t paying them with a valuable experience. It’s entirely a take relationship in many cases.
I’m not saying that ALL internship offers are this way. Sadly, the truth is a lot of them are, especially in the current internet marketing landscape.
I’ve seen many bloggers, podcasters, and information marketers offering up these “internship programs” and churning through interns like wildfire because they’re not offering a give and take relationship, they just want someone to work for them five hours a week and be quiet about it. And if a newbie virtual assistant starts with them and realizes that’s what happened, if they leave or say anything, things get ugly and reputations are tarnished on both sides of the coin.
I venture to say that many of these “internships” aren’t even internships at all… Here’s a video from Erica about the trouble with interns that has some really good points to consider.
Also check out Erica’s blog post that includes the six factors required for something to be legally considered an internship for unpaid work.
So today I issue a word of warning; beware the internship offer. Ask questions before you agree to anything. If it’s someone you really want to work with and they’re offering an internship, find out if it will eventually be a paid position, ask if there’s a trial period, ask what they’re offering in return. The privilege of simply working unpaid for a certain person just because they’re established, in general, isn’t worth it in the end. If it’s a trial period and it leads to a paid position in the very near future, that’s a different hill of beans and might be worth more consideration.
A trade of services is also something entirely different. If you’re offering your virtual assistant services in exchange for another service or for a mentoring relationship, that is very different and can be very valuable. Those agreements need to be clear for both parties, you’re offering X service in exchange for X in return. It doesn’t have to be a big fancy contract, though one might be necessary if you don’t know the person well already.
Those are my thoughts on this whole “internship” trend that’s going around everywhere lately. I’d love to hear YOUR thoughts. Please leave a comment below.