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Intern Week - Putting Prejudices about Free Work to Rest: The Benefits of the Intern Experience

Posted on September 30, 2008 by Interns

School is back in session and our group of interns has moved on to their next project.  Some of them graduated, some went back to school and others are now working here.  We have a new set of interns this semester and we expect them to be as successful and helpful as our last group.  One of the last tasks we assigned to the interns was to write a blog post on their experience or what they learned about eCommerce.  As we usher in the new and say our goodbye’s to the old I wanted to share what they learned with our audience, who knows maybe they picked up a golden nugget that some of us “experts” have missed.

My goal is to eventually start my own internet retail business, and like most entrepreneurial ventures there are a large number of unknowns.  I entered business school with the intention of learning all that I could about the retail business and eCommerce in order to give myself any advantage I could.  When the opportunity to participate in this internship presented itself, I saw it as a chance to just that. I have to admit, I was unsure that this was the best thing for me. With the ability to learn first hand the way an internet retailer operates, there was no shortage of reasons why I should participate, but there was one thing that bothered me: the pay, or lack thereof.  I understood that this was something that would benefit me greatly, but something about working for nothing bothered me to no end.  I’m not against volunteering, mind you, in fact I support it whole-heartedly; working for free in an actual business is something entirely different.

After much deliberation, I decided that I should push through my prejudices against unpaid work and participate in the internship. I was not disappointed. This internship provided me with a glimpse into the inner workings of an internet retailer, and while I was apprehensive about working for “free” this alone was worth every dollar that would have or could have been made doing some mediocre job over the summer. Not only did I get to see what happened behind the scenes, I got to participate. This is the most profound difference between working in a classroom environment and working in an actual business. In a classroom, a project has little value after it has been graded—I have a desk full of forgotten projects to prove it. One of the main tasks that I took on was content creation for the two internet retail sites that Gordian Project currently has.  Unlike the classroom experience, I was able to put all of the things that I learned into immediate use, and it was really gratifying.  In this practical learning environment, I was able to see the result of my efforts and take pride in the fact that my work was made for a purpose.

After having completed my internship, I see that intern programs provide benefits to everyone involved, not just the company receiving the free work.  I sincerely believe that most businesses should offer some form of intern program. The business would receive free labor, and the interns receive invaluable real world experience. The end result would be a more educated group of people that have the benefit of first hand knowledge. I can’t imagine a business owner denying the advantage of hiring employees that can hit the ground running.

In the end, the best part of my experience as an intern was the people. The employees were always available to offer advice and suggestions, and the interns formed a tight-knit group that made working fun and easy—even if it was for free.

-Intern Andrew


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