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Thread: Interns & frustration

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    Super Moderator kjel's avatar
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    Interns & frustration

    I hate interns.
    "He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well. Is that not what it means to know me?" Jeremiah 22:16

  2. #2
    Chairman of the bored Maister's avatar
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    I like interns.

    Moderator note:
    split from RTDNTOTO
    Last edited by Maister; 02 Mar 2012 at 12:09 PM.
    People will miss that it once meant something to be Southern or Midwestern. It doesn't mean much now, except for the climate. The question, “Where are you from?” doesn't lead to anything odd or interesting. They live somewhere near a Gap store, and what else do you need to know? - Garrison Keillor

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    Cyburbian dandy_warhol's avatar
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    I like the concept of interns but in reality they can be much more work than they're worth. But as a former intern I think the experience can be valuable.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian ofos's avatar
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    I'd rather do a work/study part-time hire than bring in an intern. Give them discrete tasks to do, see how they fit in, and not have to have them around full-time.
    “Death comes when memories of the past exceed the vision for the future.”

  5. #5
    Cyburbian dw914er's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by kjel View post
    I hate interns.
    I apologize on their behalf
    And that concludes staff’s presentation...

  6. #6
    Cyburbian Plus
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    I was a work/study part-time hire and a volunteer.
    My experience was valuable and productive.
    Oddball
    Why don't you knock it off with them negative waves?
    Why don't you dig how beautiful it is out here?
    Why don't you say something righteous and hopeful for a change?
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    No. Just some parts wake up faster than others.
    Broke parts take a little longer, though.
    From Electric Horseman (1979)

  7. #7
    Cyburbian hilldweller's avatar
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    I'm willing to cut interns some slack considering most internships are unpaid and usually involve menial tasks that are hardly "career-building exercises".

  8. #8
    Super Moderator kjel's avatar
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    Case in point:

    We have a second year grad planning student. He was tasked with reaching out to people who had indicated an interest in our first time homebuyer class. In one instance he received a reply that said the person already completed the class and was interested in purchasing a home. The intern forwards me the email but there is no name or contact info other than the "tuttifrutti" email address. He has a copy of the list obtained from the person who manages the website which has all the personal contact info. I guess it's too much to ask if he could be bothered to look up the person's name or phone number on it.

    Sigh.
    "He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well. Is that not what it means to know me?" Jeremiah 22:16

  9. #9
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Maister View post
    I like interns.
    Me too. Especially when they know ArcMap.
    Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell. -- Edward Abbey

  10. #10
    Cyburbian Planit's avatar
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    I've had good ones & bad ones.

    We caught one consistently looking up pron and ask him not to return. Another one actually took naps.

    Had one that was a wiz on GIS, straighten up alot of files and was somewhat of a geek. A copuple of us brought in our personal laptops. He fixed a couple issues I couldn't figure out on mine.

    With all interns we do a mock job interview so they'll see what one is like.
    "Whatever beer I'm drinking, is better than the one I'm not." DMLW
    "Budweiser sells a product they reflectively insist on calling beer." John Oliver

  11. #11
    Cyburbian
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    My internship was doing GIS work. I basically was hired to clean up a project the previous intern messed up. She overwrote the original source data on some big subdivision inventory we had...

    My internship, they liked me enough to keep me though.

  12. #12
    Cyburbian HomerJ's avatar
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    My first internship was just data entry and GIS, not even for a planning agency. After the first few weeks of learning what I needed to do, it became incredibly monotonous so I don't think it was a great experience. I actually was allowed to think with my other internships, and my bosses did their best to include me so I could provide some sort of input and get a variety of work experiences. I think a lot of the problem interns have is the realization that their work is so remedial anyone can do it. I know that to a certain degree there needs to be a wake up call that a new planner can't just walk into an agency and start running things, but they need to feel like they are important if they are going to put forth more effort.
    Insanity in individuals is something rare - but in groups, parties, nations and epochs, it is the rule.

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    Seriously

    Quote Originally posted by kjel View post
    I hate interns.
    If that's the only thing that they do wrong thats pretty good. I LOVE interns. Cheap way to get my day to day stuff caught up on.

  14. #14
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by HomerJ View post
    After the first few weeks of learning what I needed to do, it became incredibly monotonous so I don't think it was a great experience.
    That's part of the reason I don't like doing GIS stuff all the time but that's how I pay the bills.

    Another issue I encountered where I worked was balancing what I could do with GIS versus keeping the planning techs busy. I was essentially treated as another planning tech. The planning techs at the office were older and very uncomfortable with the GIS software, so they went very slow. My boss anticipated when giving me work that I'd go at roughly the same speed as them when doing work but I could do things substantially faster. Like the techs would manually check things while I'd just do a simple query and finish the project in a fraction of the time. This often left me with more down time than I would have liked since my boss still wanted me to leave stuff for the techs to do.

  15. #15
    Cyburbian Plus Salmissra's avatar
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    My experience as an intern was pretty good. I was employee #4 in the department, and worked part-time. I did a handful of things:

    1) TIGER Census data update (wow, we were so not up to date)
    2) Zoning file prep and site visits
    3) plat review and filing with County
    4) take minutes at P&Z
    5) after a while, did some counter work

    They liked me so much I got a full-time position there. That was over 14 years, and 5 municipal jobs, ago. I'm still in contact with my boss from there.

    As a supervisor of interns, I can see the problems. With three different interns in a four year period, here's what I've seen/had to deal with:

    1) inappropriate attire (sweats, shorts, strapless tops)
    2) excessive phone usage for personal calls
    3) Facebook on work time
    4) Unwillingness to even think about doing menial tasks (filing, categorizing, etc) because "I'm here to learn!"
    5) Wanting to do more, but not able to prove that they can handle it (see items 2-4 above)

    As a result, I've told my supervisor that I refuse to supervise any more interns this year. And so far, she ahsn't been able to sucker anyone else into doing it. They all saw what I went through last year, and have told her the same thing I did. I wonder if we're even going to have an intern this year . . .
    "We do not need any other Tutankhamun's tomb with all its treasures. We need context. We need understanding. We need knowledge of historical events to tie them together. We don't know much. Of course we know a lot, but it is context that's missing, not treasures." - Werner Herzog, in Archaeology, March/April 2011

  16. #16
    Cyburbian illinoisplanner's avatar
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    I can understand the frustration of those that have had bad experiences with interns. I know that many can be lazy, high-maintenance, incompetent, careless, lacking in attention to detail, and many other things. In addition, it can be a trying experience having to supervise when you're already busy with your own work as it is.

    But there are a lot of good people out there who do enjoy the experience and want to work hard. I know I did, with my internship experience, interning at the same place for five years. By the time I was done with my internship, I already felt like I put in a year or two as an entry-level planner. It was a win-win for me and the municipality. I learned a lot and gained a ton of experience, while we were also able to get a lot done for the community.

    So, while it may be frustrating, I'm sure a good intern will come along. Just try to keep a positive attitude though and always be looking out for those good qualities and strong work ethic (and how best to bring them out), because you don't want a potentially great intern to slip through the cracks because you've been burned by so many bad interns.

    I think what helped me land my internship is that I started off as an unpaid intern. Volunteering to spend hours going through files and other menial office tasks (with some fun planning stuff sprinkled in) really demonstrated my work ethic, knowledge, passion, and office skills to my boss, and led to a paid internship the following year. Maybe some of you might want to try the same approach? Give people a trial run for a few days or weeks unpaid and see how it goes, and if they're good, bring them on as paid interns?
    "Life's a journey, not a destination"
    -Steven Tyler

  17. #17
    NIMBY asshatterer Plus Richmond Jake's avatar
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    Does the intern applicant wear short skirts and have ample breastesses?

    EDIT: I saw "frustration" in the title of this thread. Never mind.

  18. #18
    Cyburbian Emeritus Bear Up North's avatar
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    Even though talkin' a non-planning organization, my company uses interns on a regular basis. About 10 years ago we had to let an intern go bye-bye because of his penchant for downloading porn. Most others have been good-to-very good. Primarily they are assigned special projects, usually involving some detailed analysis. Some have been interns for marketing, some for sales, and some for purchasing.
    _____

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  19. #19
    Cyburbian TerraSapient's avatar
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    I have had 2 internships, both were relatively rewarding. My first was in a GIS department of a county agency. I learned a lot, but as HomerJ implied, I began to feel like a robot. My second was with an environmental planning firm. I was hired on full time after graduating.

    Overall, I think interns are as useful as you allow them to be. You have to find work for them to do that needs to be done, but also that will stimulate them. A lot interns get stuck with the really boring office work, the day to day stuff that has very little to do with planning. It can be extremely discouraging to be hired as a planning intern just to get stuck filing and doing data entry all day. Go out of your way 10 minutes each day to find them things to do that are helpful or useful to both of you. Spend an extra 5 minutes making sure they are comfortable knowing how to do what you want them to do. Just 15 minutes later they are being productive and you are probably both happier.
    Occupy Your Brain!

  20. #20
    Cyburbian Raf's avatar
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    Maybe it is just me being an old fart, but i feel generally over the last 2 years (i took over our internship program) that students really lack in my skills in the "planning realm" that I picked up while in school. GIS is a great example. On all resumes I have seen, people put "proficient in GIS". Ok.... well can i give you data and can you make some shapefiles for me...

    blank stare

    blank stare

    "well we went through that part pretty quick"

    And please, don't get me started with staff reports, which i let them right on the small fish projects with heavy supervision. The predicable question "how long should it be?"

    "Well... it's not about length, its content. As long as you can properly convey the message to your mom/grandma."

    follow me on the twitter @rcplans

  21. #21
    Cyburbian chupacabra's avatar
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    I've been hit or miss with interns. I've had them be not only worthless but outright unpleasant to have around, but then the one we have now is outstanding. I feel bad because he's ready for the Big Time but is trapped doing an internship because of the economy. Hopefully we'll be able to find a spot for him when his internship is up.
    You can grow ideas in the garden of your mind.

  22. #22
    Cyburbian Plus Salmissra's avatar
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    I think the problem I've had with the local interns is their attitude. They feel like they should be able to walk in the door and start to work on some big, long-term, politically dangerous project, but they can't be bothered to dress or sound like they belong in a professional office environment.
    The projects I try to get them involved with are usually a mix. Some basic office stuff - learning our filing system, routine maintenance requests, etc., and then also take them out in the field for site visits, take them to meetings and expose them to a variety of departmental areas. Not every intern wants to be in the office all the time, chained to a desk or on the phone. Not every intern wants to go outside in the fresh air to do site visits or meet clients, either. Give them a chance to try it all, and see what clicks.

    However, I don't look favorably on punk wanna-be elitists who think that they can dictate the projects they will work on, etc. just because they have the highest GPA in their class. If you want us to sign off on the credits, you better play by our rules.
    "We do not need any other Tutankhamun's tomb with all its treasures. We need context. We need understanding. We need knowledge of historical events to tie them together. We don't know much. Of course we know a lot, but it is context that's missing, not treasures." - Werner Herzog, in Archaeology, March/April 2011

  23. #23
    Forums Administrator & Gallery Moderator NHPlanner's avatar
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    Guess I've been fortunate. In my previous job, I managed the internship program, and I can say with confidence that all of them (7 in total) were fantastic. I think a big part of making an internship program successful is to make sure there is a project specific to the intern each year. My previous interns have completed business inventories, written ordinances and regulations (conservation subdivisions, parking, signage, historic overlay), done GIS work, and some transportation planning.

    I give much credit to my former boss when I was an intern in the mid 1990's. He gave me a specific project, I ran with it, won an award, and the topic turned into my thesis for my final year of college. I always tried to make sure that there was something tangible that each intern could produce during the 3-4 months we had them. It always helped at budget time to be able to point to the projects interns had completed as justification for continued funding of the program.

    I can proudly say that, as of a couple of weeks ago, every one of my former interns (except for the one last summer that is still in school) had moved on to a full-time planning position elsewhere. I'm hopeful that I can in future years here, gain some traction to add some money to my budget to establish a program here as well.
    "Growth is inevitable and desirable, but destruction of community character is not. The question is not whether your part of the world is going to change. The question is how." -- Edward T. McMahon, The Conservation Fund

  24. #24
    I started off as an intern helping to organize a CDC. This led to a full time job and pretty much every job I've had since then. The CDC is still going strong.

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