A sweet and incredibly bright young woman will be at my house for a couple of hours today, cheerfully doing anything I ask her to do. Yesterday, I had a talented college graduate and aspiring journalist here for five full hours, eagerly embracing any assignment I threw at her and then asking for more.
These women are unpaid interns. And I couldn’t manage without them.
Emma Zang-Schwartz is a senior at nearby Chaparral High School and will be the editor of the school’s glossy magazine during the upcoming school year. Since she started with us last spring, she has been my right hand with website tasks and something of an archiving wizard. I was delighted when she told me she plans to continue her internship throughout her senior year.
Brooke Mortensen is a graduate of Central Washington University, a recent transplant to Arizona who has taken over our RAK Community blog and helps me populate some of our other online features. She’s also written a story for our upcoming August issue.
Raising Arizona Kids has a long history of working with interns. Some have come to us through formal programs at ASU and various community colleges. Others have simply dropped into my lap through referrals from educators or friends. We got two great graphic arts interns through The Art Institute of Phoenix. (One of them, Michelle-Renee Adams, is now our Art Director.)
In some cases, our interns are the children of staff members. Vicki Louk Balint‘s son Robert has written for both the magazine and our Sports Roundtable blog. (This week he followed his mom’s footsteps and went multimedia. Watch his video essay on high school football’s “Big Man” competition.)
Calendar & Directories Editor Mala Blomquist enlisted her daughters’ help at a very young age. Solvay, now 11, has spent part of several summers shredding documents and stuffing envelopes with her big sister. As Mylan entered high school, she moved into writing and website administration.
In most cases, internships are mutually beneficial. I get free labor; interns get experience in the workings of a monthly publication and daily online “eZine.”
I’m a huge fan of unpaid internships. When someone is willing to come to a job and be held accountable to a schedule and job description — even when they’re not being paid — it shows a lot about their character and drive.
It also gives them great real-world experience they carry with them into future careers. One of our interns, a college graduate, parlayed her experience with us into a paid internship at O magazine. Another is now working as a multimedia journalist for a TV station in Las Vegas. And I recently got an email from yet another former intern who is working for a PR firm in Los Angeles.
My own son Andy did a full-semester unpaid internship at a newspaper in Washington, D.C. when he was a junior in college. Shortly after graduating, he landed a full-time position there. (He is now a writer for POLITICO.) My son David did volunteer work for the John Kerry presidential campaign in the summer of 2004. A few years later, he ended up with a paid summer job with the Arizona Democratic Party. He now works as a researcher for the Democratic National Committee in Washington, D.C., where he shares an apartment with Andy.
I couldn’t have predicted what any of my former interns (or my sons, for that matter) would be doing now. But I certainly could have predicted that they’d be doing something productive and meaningful. For young people, internships are a good investment in the future.
And for the people who supervise them, interns are often a source of unexpected gifts and surprisingly rewarding relationships.
TOMORROW: How an intern helped me remember a turning point in my own career.