One of my heroes, Ray Bradbury, passed away recently. In my youth, I devoured his books and he was one of a few who influenced me to pursue a technical career. Later, I had the good fortune of seeing him speak on several occasions and discovered how inspiring he was as a person. He often talked about pursuing your passion for something and letting it drive what you do in life. He was a real-life example of that. “You must live life at the top of your voice!” he said.
In our case, having the same kind of passion for audio engineering is what we look for in our interns. The ideal candidate has the notion that spending hours toiling in a studio environment, no matter what the task, is fun as opposed to work or drudgery. A lot can be gleaned about the business if you learn to pay attention to details, even the most seemingly insignificant minutiae. That has to be the mindset required nowadays because things are not easy.
Looking at it from the intern’s perspective, what kind of inspiration do they glean from working for you? What does your studio or facility stand for? What kind of work ethic do you display? What does your assistants’ behavior say about the values exhibited by your business? Sharing your thoughts with interns is certainly important, but they’ll learn far more by observing your actions and the example you set in dealing with employees and clients.
There have been a few articles in the press lately regarding the increased use of unpaid internships and a couple of cases of exploitation, which resulted in lawsuits. It would be a shame if opportunities for internships were reduced for fear of lawsuits. I don’t want to downplay the seriousness of taking advantage of interns, but I think people know the value and benefits of an internship when it works.
Go back and remember what got you into this business in the first place. What excited you and where do you want to see the industry go? It is our responsibility as owners and managers to help shape that direction, one intern at a time. Isn’t the long-term viability of our industry ultimately more important than short-term gain for your business? If you inspire your interns, a lawsuit would never be a concern. At the very minimum, you have to offer something of concrete value in return—school credits, a job opportunity, letters of recommendation or even some counseling/guidance. Keep in mind that a former intern could become a future customer.