For those of you who have ever been in management, you know that traditional rush every spring to find the best young interns from the halls of academia to come to your magazine/newspaper/website/business office/whatever to offer a hand, in return for course credit and some on-the-job career training. You also know that, often, the intern-finding rush is followed by the frenzy of finding them something suitably interesting to do — a job that often takes so much time that it falls into the “it would be faster if I just did it myself” category — especially since so many of the little darlings come attached to big-shot fathers and mothers elsewhere in the organization or among clients, who want to make sure Junior and Sissy are being given meaningful work that befits their station in life.
But what if the interns came with real, marketable life skills themselves, and just needed to learn a new aspect of their job to keep them up to date? The company would benefit from the knowledge and experience of the intern for very little or no money. And the intern would — for free, mind you — learn a new marketable skill that leads them to the next job.
And, to denote that these interns are actually executives in temporary disguise, you could call them Executive Interns — something they can proudly put on a résumé, to show flexibility, willingness to learn at every age, moxie and an ability to laugh a little at themselves as, together, we face bravely this new world.
It’s our attempt to create a virtuous circle.
That’s the thinking, anyway, behind the wowOwow.com Executive Intern program.
We started this program organically this winter here at wowOwow.com, and felt there might be something of value in our experience that others elsewhere who are running businesses or not-for-profits could use in these times of financial crisis. Happily for us (and for our wonderful first Executive Intern, the brilliant Lois Draegin, and our own up-and-coming Web editor Randi Bernfeld), the Los Angeles Times agreed — and has put the story on their front page and on their website this morning.
Both Joni Evans — our CEO, driving force and the founding genius behind wowOwow.com — and myself come from long careers in traditional print: Joni as the high profile maven of the book-publishing world, who has brought more than 100 New York Times bestsellers to the fore; me, as a more behind-the-scenes, business-side magazine publishing executive at companies such as Meredith, Hearst, Condé Nast and Primedia. Both of us migrated to the Web. And both of us are awash in brilliant former colleagues — many, but not all of them women — who find themselves without work amid the double whammy of the general economic tsunami and the even more disastrous downturn in the media world.
Therefore, it’s no accident that this initiative is born out of the print-Web miasma in which many of our former traditional media colleagues find themselves. Newspapers and magazines are being challenged to move online at a record pace … at the same time the advertising to support such a move has withered on both the print and the Internet side of the equation. The result is great people on both sides of the cyber sea have found themselves without jobs.
These are not ordinary times in America. We find ourselves victims of a recession that is the result of mendacious, libertine excess at the top of the economic food chain, where carelessness and lawlessness festered while lobbyist-led Washington looked the other way. And certain industries are neck-deep in an actual depression — most notably: autos, retail, Wall Street, real estate and media. We offer this idea to you, our dear wowOwow.com readers, in the hopes it might inspire you to think of one of your own colleagues in your community who is only one skill set away from landing, once again, a great job … after a stint as an Executive Intern at your place of business.
As usual, we know you’ll be generous with your thoughts in the comments below.