The intern is not your office assistant

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A recent exchange between two corporate employees on a social media platform talked about how they made the interns do the ‘mundane jobs’ like ordering a cake, calling for snacks at a meeting or fixing the printer.

While this seemed to be banter between two professionals, who were boasting about making an MBA student run around doing menial jobs, it is also a reflection of the perceived role of interns at workplaces.

Landing an internship at a large company in India is a big deal for a student. The two-month period is crucial because it not only gives students first-hand experience about the corporate world but a candidate could also be given a full-time job if he/she performs well during this period.

However, what none of the students is prepared for is the kind of work they actually get assigned. From printing out reports to arranging files or ordering food for the boss, the ‘daily chores’ are endless. And being a newcomer to the job, complaints are overlooked.

Rajat Ghosh, a management student got a rude shock when he secured an internship at an engineering firm. His role was to ensure that all the office stationery supplies were up to date. If there was something to be brought, he would be given the ‘responsibility’ to purchase items.

Ghosh was surprised because he did not expect to do administrative jobs for a company which already had dedicated staff members for the same. But when he chose to speak out and demanded a ‘meatier’ project, the company thought he was too outspoken and decided against giving him a full-time job.

Human resource experts are of the view that these tasks are sometimes given to test the patience of a prospective hire. However, an internship is specifically designed to give practical knowledge in relevant fields to students. Relegating them to an office assistant position may not be ideal.

While dignity of labour is crucial and no job is menial, it is necessary that every individual is assigned a job role that he/she is best suited for.

While larger firms have tasks assigned to interns, it is far worse in smaller companies. The interns are at every employee’s beck and call. One could be asked to post a letter, buy groceries or even book personal doctor appointments.

Pune’s Ritika Saxena thought it was inappropriate for her reporting manager to make her book his personal train tickets during her internship with a BFSI startup. When she complained, she was not only fired immediately from her job but her stipend was also withheld.

This is just 1 percent of the real picture. An internship is considered a stepping-stone for tomorrow’s leaders. It is high time that Indian corporates take their interns seriously.LIVE NOW… Video series on How to Double Your Monthly Income… where Rahul Shah, Ex-Swiss Investment Banker and one of India’s leading experts on wealth building, reveals his secret strategies for the first time ever. Register here to watch it for FREE.