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An Ode to Internships and Lifelong Learning

By Erick Roder

The first main point I wanted to make in my article is to thank all of our current summer interns. Tyler, David, and Pankaj have been beyond amazing this summer. Having them at a full-time capacity for the last few months has massively helped our team move forward on many different projects. Having ambitious people who are new to the field, want to put the time in, and are looking to improve their craft is a guiding principle of internships. A lot of businesses have lost their way when it comes to internships and apprenticeships. Do you want to work 30 hours a week for 15 weeks for free to add a little snippet to your resume? I sure don’t, and no one really does deep down. Would you like to make an entry-level wage, get college credit, continue working past the end of your internship, and transition to a full-time job after graduation? A lot more people will say yes to that. There is an easy way to correct the current awful internship trajectory:

  • Embrace people who are hungry to learn.
  • Be eager to teach.
  • Dedicate yourself and your staff to lifelong learning.

I have no idea why we, as a society, say that the end of school is the end of structured learning. Life is learning. Every day should be about learning. Workplaces should embrace continuous learning and respect where people are at in their journey. There are always people who love to learn. For example, every class I have ever been in had people who wanted to learn and ones that have been overqualified for entry-level work. They exist and will thrive if given the right work environment! Mark Cuban had a first job just like you and me. I’m assuming before he left to start his own empire, he brought some decent ideas to the table at his first job. As a Director of People, I am more concerned with how much more people want to learn and bring good ideas to the board compared to what they have already learned. Look for hungry learners—they will help your business shine.

“If you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. If you teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime.” This is an old proverb that should be more common in the workplace. Teaching at every level of your career is an obligation to embrace. Giving someone the guidance and tools they need to soar can be quite fulfilling. Someone out there wants to excel at things I don’t have time to do. Full disclosure, I have finalized all written components, added graphics, and sent this newsletter by myself about five times during my four years at Codelation. Teach people to help you and allow them to continue growing and improving as they go. Getting time back during your work day is also an essential component of your personal growth. As a bonus, continually teaching and leveling up employees will open entry-level positions for the next generation of learners.

A staff dedicated to learning is an example that has to be set at the top. When you stop learning, you start dying. It’s so easy to be too busy to structure learning into your week. Don’t fall into this trap. It is easier said than done, but essential. I am guilty of dropping the ball on this too, but try your best. Set aside a goal of a certain amount of time to spend learning per week or identify a skill you’d like to learn over the course of a month—then actually follow through! Need some accountability? Set up a recurring check-in with your team so everyone can discuss how their leveling-up is going. Do whatever you need to do to make learning a consistent thing in your life. Set a good example for the rest of your team by following through on your learning goals, being consistent with training, and being excited about hiring interns. 

There is a way to make hiring amazing interns financially easier if you are a North Dakota business. Operation Intern is a program through the Department of Commerce where North Dakota businesses can apply for intern credits in fields they need help in. They pay up to $4,000 in wages per every approved intern. With the help of subsidized salaries from the state, we have been able to employ and level up so many genuinely amazing people at the beginning of their career journey. If you’re not a North Dakota business, check with your local department of commerce to see if there’s a similar program available in your area. Our interns have more than crushed expectations across the board. Thank you so much to all our current and past interns. My challenge to other businesses is to join us in a pledge to lifelong learning and building a better bridge for college students to transition into their professions. Are you with us?

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