It was great, they were all young! Is there ageism in students’ reflections on professional internship?
Noting the tendency of students of work and organizational psychology to choose internships among a smaller number of hosting organizations paired with satisfaction with completed internship expressed by the sentence ‘It was great, they were all young’, we performed qualitative content analysis of students’ reflections on age in the context of internship attractiveness. The materials for the analysis were 1) Fifty internship reports and 2) Discussions with students. There was no explicit ageism in students’ reports. Students were equally satisfied with mentors from more and less popular organizations. Four categories related to attractiveness of internship hosting organizations emerged: organizational culture, organizational climate, working conditions and mentors’ work. As in the case of more attractive organizations they point to ‘younger’ organizations, as a factor of their attractiveness, they could be discussed as ‘clear manifestations of ageism’, but also they could be regarded as ‘younger generation centeredness’, and partly a form of ‘covert ageism’. Reflections could also be interpreted as a consequence of students’ professional insecurity, need for peer support, ease of communicating with peers and those of similar age. Psychological distance from older generations of colleagues and mentors at work can both be the source of covert and overt ageism. In order to enable students to fully utilize the benefits of internship for their professional development, it is important to work on recognizing and preventing ageism and overcoming generational distances.