Over the past couple of months I’ve been pulling together my annual ‘150 PR internships and graduate schemes‘ list.
Something was different this year. Several of the agencies specifically said about their internships that interns would not be expected to make tea, and one said interns aren’t sent to do the coffee run.
Their intentions are good, I’m sure. They want young people to know that if they get an internship at that firm that it’ll be a valuable and interesting experience.
The fact that they have to spell it out like that tells me that PR has a reputation for having interns who make tea, and not much else. Which is rather depressing, and doesn’t reflect some of the brilliant internship schemes I’ve come across.
But actually, I think those firms that have banned the intern from tea making have got it wrong. It’s possible to make tea and still have an interesting and rewarding internship. In fact, I think making tea should be a part of all good internships because being considerate to the people you work with is a great quality to have. It shouldn’t always fall to the intern to do the tea rounds – everyone in the team should have a crack at it and the team leader should set the example – but it shouldn’t be out of bounds for them either.
In my early career, these are some of the tasks I did:
– Plumbed in a dishwasher
– Walked the bosses dog from her home, carried it on the tube and brought it to the office (which was a surprise, as I thought ‘Skye’ was her daughter)
– Licked stamps for over 500 Christmas cards
– Bought and arranged flowers
– Put a sick bucket on a podium and stood by in case my boss threw up during a presentation after a particularly heavy night on the booze (he didn’t, thankfully)
– Answering doors and hanging up coats
– Typing the details of hundreds of business cards into a database (thankfully there is technology for that now!)
– Drove a film canister to Soho in a transit van (I had never driven a van before, or driven in central London)
– Cleaned toilets
– Made tea (in some cases to very specific shades of brown)
None of those tasks are particularly skillful or taxing, except maybe the dishwasher plumbing, and they were all in paid jobs rather than during internships, but doing those kinds of tasks with good grace and humour meant I stood out as someone who will do stuff. I will muck in. I will take one for the team and do the things that someone has to do.
Just last year, I was on my hands and knees cleaning the office kitchen floor because we’d just moved in and had no cleaner. I then put the office furniture together.
Interns should do some of the more menial jobs, provided they get to do more interesting work and have learning opportunities too. It’s character building and it sorts the doers from the won’t-dos.