Interned Professionals and Defensive Elites

An interesting point in Intern Nation, by Ross Perlin, reflecting on the long term consequences of the institutionalised internship system for the constitution of the professions. From loc 3035-3051:

Besides, it’s probably too early to gauge the deepest effects—the internship explosion has only gone fully mainstream, integrated into every white-collar field, since around the turn of the millennium. If current trends hold, today’s interns will dominate critical professions and hold positions of substantial power in a few decades, even more so than today; today’s non-interns will remain trapped in the basement of American life. By the time a proper accounting is possible, the damage to our meritocratic ideals will have been done.

But the internship system is also something over which defensive elites exercise their outsize influence. From loc 3133

“We have this advisory board, very high wealth individuals, heads of hedge funds and whatnot,” says “Tom,” describing a well-known poverty alleviation nonprofit founded by a Nobel Prize winner. “They send their nephew in and so we have no choice but to take him.” One summer, he adds, an individual office had six full-time staff, five graduate student interns, and four to five “nephews or nieces of important people” interns. “It happens to us all the time,” says Tom. “Who are these kids? They’re totally ineffective, they take up space, I have to redo their work products—but at the same time, you have to smile and say, ‘Great, thank you so much.’ It’s like babysitting, we have to keep them happy. I get frustrated—I just want somebody who does their job.”

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