Interns Are Not for Sissies

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If you meet a student in college who tells you he or she has an internship with a company in the digital business, you should have a new, profound respect for this kid. Today’s internships are not about the old grind of filing, reception work, or getting coffee for the staff. Today’s internships bring a whole new meaning to survival of the fittest.

Many digital companies use the internship program as a research lab for discovering new genius talent. Finding the next Bill Gates, Sergey Brin, or Steve Jobs doesn’t happen in a job interview. It is more of a scouting process, similar to sports.

Digital interns are under tremendous scrutiny by those who are responsible for hiring the best of breed. Interns are given daily challenges that only can be compared to the endurance of pledging for a sorority or fraternity. The tasks are so daunting that less than half of the interns last the full semester.

Not every young person is prepared to travel to foreign countries for research, play mind games that test for confidence, or have the skills to lead a new business pursuit.

These kind of skills are usually cultivated after years of experience. However, digital companies look for clues that certain students possess that show signs of what they characterize as unique qualities.

Being a digital intern also comes with major perks: high-end bicycles, free meals from nations around the world, weekend retreats, and premium housing.

I am reminded of all the stories I’ve heard over the years from young friends by the new movie, “The Internship.” Starring Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson, the hilarious duo from “The Wedding Crashers,” this brilliant comedy illustrates the daily, mind-blowing challenges facing interns in the digital industry today. The script was surprisingly written by Vaughn and former New York Post entertainment writer Jared Paul Stern. It was produced by Vaughn and Shawn Levy.

After you see this movie, you will be very happy to be an older person away from the maddening competition.

TO BE OR NOT TO BE

One of the greatest things about being in the tech industry for so many years is that I get to meet hundreds, maybe thousands, of people who have a dream of building or creating something. I can probably tell within minutes of meeting that person if he or she is going to be successful. 

Scary isn’t it? Not really. Most of the time the person’s success really depends on his or her personality. There are certain ingredients that an inspiring entrepreneur must have in order to be successful. Sadly, most people just don’t have what it takes. I know a lot of seniors live vicariously through some of the young folks today who created something out of nothing and sold it for a billion dollars, like Instagram, or now have their companies valued at a $100 billion, like Facebook. I have to tell my generation that 99.9 per cent of the young people in the digital world today are not capable of inventing something and turning it into gold. 

My advice is to hold on to your money. I am not trying to be mean or negative. I just want to be the conveyor of reality.  Most angel investors are prepared to lose their money. They deal with percentages. If one out of 10 deals work, they have made back their losses and if they are really lucky they made a sizeable profit. Investing in social marketing or smartphone apps is an art. The average person doesn’t know what questions to ask or how to evaluate the business plan. A word to grandparents. If you finance a grandchild’s dream, consider it a gift. You most likely will never see a return. 

Everyone thinks they are Mark Zuckerberg or Steve Jobs but the truth is unless today’s tech entrepreneur is obsessed with his or her work, compulsive, controlling, fearless, articulate and a problem solver, they will fail sooner or later.  I even dare to say that unless today’s entrepreneurs are willing to give up quality time with their families, they are dead ducks. That is just what it takes to make it in the age of the Internet where one week is like one day, one day is like an hour and one hour is like one minute. Internet time is much different than what the rest of the world is used to. Everything is instant response and instant gratification. 

I have witnessed so many people with tons of ideas that went nowhere fast. They just didn’t know how to execute. They were either so in love with their concept that they thought it would just take off, or they liked the idea of creating something but really had no interest in exerting enough sweat to see it to fruition. I can remember so many times, when I truly got excited about handling the public relations for a new invention or service only to have the creator flame out.  Many of these guys are screw ups and can’t handle success so they unconsciously do something that causes their downfall. 

My next blog post will be about some of the characters I’ve come across over the years. Get ready for a good laugh. You can’t make this stuff up.

RECLAIMING WHAT WE STARTED

There are very few of me.  Most women my age are either retired or work in fields where seniors are more populous.  I work  in the digital world where 20- and 30- year-olds rule.   I spend my day talking to kids who have no idea who Truman Capote is and that Sonny was the other half of Cher.  They do know things that no one my age, male or female, will ever know or care about. Their conversations revolve around Crowd Sourcing,  Ambient Technology,  Hyperlinks,  Flash and Lead  Harvesting.  There are more millionaire entrepreneurs before the age of 30 than ever before and that number has reached epidemic proportions.  My staff, my clients are more than 30 years my junior.  Every year they get younger and younger, every year I have to become more relevant, productive and creative.

I decided to start this blog because I think it is important to track my success (or lack of it) in a world that is ever changing.  What is new one day in the world of the Internet is old the next.  Keeping up with innovation is like being Lucy packing chocolates from that runaway conveyer belt . http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8NPzLBSBzPI&feature=fvwrel   While my friends are downsizing and playing golf or spending more time with their grandkids,  I am trying to become knowledgeable about Instagram, Highlight and Pinterest.  The real challenge is just not understanding what these technologies do, but how to use them.  If I don’t use them all the time, then I forget where, how and when to click. I drive everyone crazy asking for help. Our company technology expert constantly says to me “How many times did I tell you…………”

The good news for people my age is that once we become proficient with all of these digital gizmos and applications, we have a deeper understanding of their potential and practicality.  Most younger people want instant gratification and take things at face value.   Their intuition is all about using the mechanics.  Ours is all about applying them to life experiences.

Yes, there is a tremendous value in being older in the digital community. You just have to be strong enough to get through a few embarrassing moments then be ready to claim the territory that we handed to them.