Intern syndrome


When you worked under someone who will never be able to see as you as anything more than subordinate: intern syndrome.

Like many industries facing a disruption, experienced leaders that have earned their leadership through seniority rightly question a newer, younger cohort that asks a lot of questions and experiments with process. I think that’s partly the reason for sometimes uneasy relationships I’ve had with more veteran colleagues of mine.

(Read: our struggle at Technically Philly to establish any meaningful content partnerships, our decision to expand to other markets and, sure, the fact that BarCamp NewsInnovation will often have more people from other cities than the Philly daily papers).

I like barriers to entry, in which relationships and respect isn’t automatically transferred, but in recent years I’ve butted up against situations in which I felt the work of my peers or even myself was being cast aside because it was assumed to be inferior, because of our age, because of our having been subordinates to to many with whom we are now hoping to work. (Though this happens everywhere, when I find interference with the more established players in Philadelphia in a mentality of scarcity, I think of this city’s long troubled past with civic leadership, which is surely why so many people here struggle to share the stage.)

It makes me question the structure of seniority. Experience is very good at context and direction, but experience isn’t always good for breeding innovation. There is no shortage of stories of the startup or upstart who brings fresh perspective and new ideas to a situation. It seems then that our leaders shouldn’t be experienced, instead, they should newcomers, surrounded by those with experience — unless that leader is the very rare visionary who can decide what is a crazy idea and what is a new one.

I recently said something like that: People with experience should be valuable advisers to leaders who have nothing but new views. For example, maybe everyone in Congress should be younger than 45, with a team of wise experts.

Perhaps encouraging and celebrating new ideas from new comers, we could overcome Intern Syndrome.

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