That's Why I Gave my 4-Year-Old Son an Internship

By Joseph Hayes posted 08-10-2017 11:22

If you’re a parent you know summer is a double-edge sword. On the bright side, there are endless summer activities to keep occupied: from attending festivals, participating in outdoor sports and movies, or simply hanging at the pool. But there’s also the dark side. School’s out, the kids are home all day and longer periods of daylight means later and longer bedtime routines. This disruption to routine can be tiresome and at minimum takes adjustment.
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That’s why I gave my 4-year-old son an internship. Paid, I might add.

While admittedly my reasons for considering an internship were slightly selfish (OK, entirely), research shows that assuming the timing and quality of experiences are age appropriate, early is better when it comes to experiences. 

The earliness trend has been applied in different areas from college football coaches that are offering athletic scholarships to students in junior high to corporate recruiters that are offering college students full-time positions a couple of years in advance. So developing an age appropriate internship for my 4-year-old is not that far-fetched.

In defining this summer internship, I looked at the National Association of Colleges and Employers' (NACE) seven point test to make sure his internship was legit and educational.
  1. The experience must be an extension of the classroom: a learning experience that provides for applying the knowledge gained in the classroom. It must not be simply to advance the operations of the employer or be the work that a regular employee would routinely perform. Off to a good start. My son just graduated from Pre-K. He learned kindness, numbers, the alphabet, music, art, and more. His summer internship will include many, if not all of these lessons from the past year. The work he will be contributing to the organization’s mission will be helpful, but at the same time will require supervision and won’t displace any workers. (Status: Check)
  2. The skills or knowledge learned must be transferable to other employment settings. I really can’t think of any employment setting that wouldn’t benefit from kind employees and knowledge of numbers. On top of this, exposure and an overall well-roundedness to the arts only creates a more diversified employee and thus a stronger work force. (Status: Check)
  3. The experience has a defined beginning and end, and a job description with desired qualifications. See position description below. (Status: Check)
  4. There are clearly defined learning objectives/goals related to the professional goals of the student’s academic coursework. See position description below. (Status: Check)
  5. There is supervision by a professional with expertise and educational and/or professional background in the field of the experience. My wife and I are honored and excited to serve as internship supervisors. We were once in his shoes and are happy to provide our expertise in household duties and more so – applying critical Pre-K skills to a real world setting. We recognize that this internship will test the intern in new ways and may result in some setbacks along the way. And this leads directly to number 6: (Status: Check)
  6. There is routine feedback by the experienced supervisor.  As supervisors, we know feedback (positive and constructive) is critical to learning. For instance, it would be a disservice to let the intern apply too much water to plants and unknowingly over-water and kill them. Knowing the research on millennials and the need for feedback, we can only guess that this generation will have somewhat similar traits. While some companies incorporate once-a-year reviews (minimum) or daily “stand-ups,” we agreed to nightly story-time debriefs. We discuss what made the intern happy, what made the intern sad, and what the intern is looking forward to tomorrow. (Status: Check)
  7. There are resources, equipment, and facilities provided by the host employer that support learning objectives/goals. We are committed to making his internship experience top notch. We’ve made investments in the proper tools and equipment that will assist in his objectives such as a watering hose, crayons, sidewalk chalk, etc. In order for our internship to attract quality candidates, we’ve provided free housing, transportation, and a daily meal plan with plenty of snacks. We recognize that company culture is important and have made great efforts to demonstrate this through a casual dress environment (perhaps too casual), ice cream socials, annual day at the ballpark, and a work-from-home policy. Lastly, we recognize that there are other professionals that the intern can learn from so we plan on having aunts, uncles, and grandparents share their wisdom in a soon-to-be-named leadership development series. (Status: Check) 

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Disclaimer: Perhaps it goes without noting, but if it wasn't already clear this light-hearted story was developed to shed light on the requirements of an internship and to bring attention to developing a structured internship with built in learning objectives. My son does not have an internship. He's 4.

#bestpractices #Internships