There are many good reasons for hiring an intern. This isn’t one of them.
In Rework, by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansen, there is one piece of advice that makes me excited and frightened at the same time.
It goes, “Hire great writers…clear writing is a sign of clear thinking. Great writers know how to communicate. They make things easy to understand. They can put themselves in someone else’s shoes. They know what to omit. And those are qualities you want in any candidate.”
I couldn’t agree more. And it was so much better to hear this from a business owner in an internet enabled, contemporary business — Fried and Hansson are the founders of Basecamp, in case you don’t know. As opposed to, say, an ad agency.
It’s an exciting resume of the value of a writer and a call to action for anyone recruiting.
What frightens me is that most of the companies advertising for writers clearly don’t share the perspective of the writers of Rework.
Because many companies that are posting copywriting jobs at the moment are looking for interns or entry level candidates (on Glassdoor, LinkedIn, etc.). And most of them don’t have other writers on the team. Meaning the intern will become ‘the’ copywriter. Learning from people who can’t write very well — because they are hired to be good at other things.
I became an employed copywriter at the age of eighteen. At the time, nobody could tell me that I didn’t know how to write with wisdom and experience.
I thought I was brilliant. But I was wrong. No precocious talent could overcome my lack of years and experience of life. Not to mention ability.
Copywriting is a craft, like carpentry. Meticulous practice cannot be avoided, side-stepped or YouTube’d.
As a junior copywriter, every word I wrote for at least a year had to go past a senior writer, who advised me how to write better. Again and again I filled the waste basket with crumpled A4.
An intern writer has less experience even than a junior.
They come to learn. They need to sit with someone who can teach them. Even if you don’t pay them, they will cost you money because they will take up your time.
They know that they come with nothing other than a keenness to learn.
So, don’t mislead them into thinking that they can write words that will make your business more successful. This is grossly unfair and it won’t work.
I know from experience that hiring an intern can be immensely rewarding. Not just for the candidate but for the business.
Get the right one and you will find them energetic, questioning, very willing to help and a real breath of fresh air.
But, with the best will in the world, they won’t be the writer you want.