HR Strange But True!
June 07, 2007

Speaking from experience, an internship can be hit or miss. It can be a fascinating--and sometimes lucrative--introduction to a profession. It can be a painful experience filled with all manner of grunt work ("Save it for the intern!"). Or, worse yet, it can be 10 weeks of make-work boredom, where the highlight of the day is filling your department's lunch order.

Now, to the rescue, comes Businesses for the Ethical Treatment of Interns (BETI).

"Stop Intern Abuse Now!" trumpeted the press release in our inbox. "Interns are not 'peons' or 'gophers' or 'grunts' that work to 'pay their dues through a rite of passage,'" states the release.

Part of a BETI poster.

Sound like a joke? Well it is, actually. BETI's website features a few videos (of dubious production and laugh value) that parody popular television shows such as "The Sopranos" and "24." You'll also find some PDF posters with such messages as "Last year, thousands of interns were crushed by copiers. Interns can do more. Repetitive copying can break a talented intern's will."

But BETI's real role is as a viral marketing tool to drive visitors to Matthew Zinman's "Z University" and "Internship Institute" websites where they can buy the Intern Toolkit and other materials geared toward improving intern programs.

Now, we don't have anything against viral marketing (we've been known to dabble there ourselves--did we just admit that?), and Zinman is a dogged and savvy marketer of his Newton, Pennsylvania-based company. And frankly, having just finished our annual scramble to identify and prioritize intern projects, we quite like the idea of an Intern Toolkit or anything else that could help grease those skids.

On a more serious note, a recent article on reminds employers not to use interns as substitute workers. Internships are intended to educate, not provide summer relief workers, and using unpaid interns as replacement staffers is likely a violation of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and/or similar state laws.

On a less serious note is "Hallie's Internship is Better Than Yours," a column on AOL's tragically hip Intern Hallie got the dream assignment of covering the MTV Movie Awards, and she regales us with everything from her difficulties finding the parking garage to her impression of some of the award recipients ("Okay I am glad [Jack Nicholson] won, but he is not looking too hot. 70 years old and he is still rocking the shades indoors. But he totally dropped the 'f-bomb' so I guess we can subtract a decade or so.")

Hallie's internship probably is, in fact, better than the assignments we have mustered for our three interns this summer, though we like to think we provide a variety of tasks, a decent paycheck, and most important, a taste of the publishing profession.

And we would like to assure you that no interns were harmed in the making of this column. As we said, we would like to assure you of that ....

Sources: BETI website, Z University, MSNBC,

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