You Get What You Pay For

Photo: Katy TomasuloBy Katy Tomasulo
ASBPE Washington, DC Chapter President

I’ve always been an advocate for paying interns. My belief was reaffirmed recently when my current intern, who’s been with us since the fall semester and is an absolute star, asked if she could return next fall. She had considered looking for other internships, but when push came to shove she decided to return to our post because it gave her real work and, she admits, paid her.

I believe it’s this combination — real work and at least a small paycheck — that keeps interns enthusiastic.

I’ve heard people argue that pay shouldn’t matter; that interns should just be grateful for the experience. Yes, they should. But when you’re a little B2B magazine battling against newsstand pubs for quality applicants, sometimes just the experience isn’t enough. Attract them with an hourly wage; keep them by giving them a great, resume-building experience.

Here are some other realities to consider:

  • You get what you pay for: Compensation lends more responsibility. Most will work harder because you’re paying them, plain and simple. Without pay, some may feel they have no reason to go the extra mile for you.
  • Pay keeps them coming back: My intern is proof. We couldn’t be more thrilled to have her returning — she works hard, is a self-starter, and is just plain nice to have around. Plus, that’s four more months I don’t have to break in a new intern.
  • Paying them is cheaper than paying a freelancer: If you get a good intern who can write news articles and even features, you’ve got yourself a bargain. What’s $12 an hour for an intern compared to $1 a word for a freelancer?
  • A paid position makes your internship more attractive and competitive to applicants: Which means a bigger, better pool to choose from.

Of course, pay isn’t everything. Just as essential is creating an environment that provides real-world experience. All interns know they will get stuck with some admin work. But be sure to balance it out with things to write, small projects to manage, problems to solve. If your interns aren’t leaving with clips — print and online — then what have they gained?

We all have too much work to do. Let your interns share the load, reap the benefits, and be paid for their important contributions.

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