Ah, the good old internship. For many, just hearing the word brings up images of a college student doing the dullest jobs: going on a coffee run, making endless stacks of copies—need I say more? Some programs actually require an internship to graduate, which I think is worthwhile. Getting experience in a real-life work situation is invaluable; however, the student providing the work often isn’t valuable enough to the employer, creating the dreaded unpaid internship. A lot of the time, you either work 20+ hours a week and get paid for it, or work a measly 10-12 hours a week and get “paid” in college credit or, even better, experience. That’s not always the case though.
Doing a quick search of unpaid internships on CareerLink, I found this listing:
Now, the internship itself is pretty interesting for anyone who wants to get into the event planning side of marketing/public relations. One major red flag? Working 30-40 hours a week without pay (plus the amount of travel that needs to be done). Later in the listing, the company writes, “While the internship is unpaid, there are many paid opportunities within the events.” How can a college student work a full-time internship, go to school, and work a part-time job to pay their bills? As the price of living goes up, this has become increasingly difficult. An unpaid internship just adds to the stress that college students don’t need.
Any internship director (scratch that—anyone with a decent amount of sense) will tell you that you shouldn’t take a full-time unpaid internship. Many internship directors say that an internship will lead to a job offer. However, this study done by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) proves otherwise:
An unpaid internship is more than just three months of unpaid labor. It hurts when you’re pretty much in the same pool as another student who never even completed an internship.
Companies are exploiting college-aged students who are hungry for experience. I’m not writing this to short sell unpaid internships. I’ve been on both sides of this argument; once with an amazing unpaid internship, another time with a not-so-hot paid one. The importance of internships grows every year, especially in a tough job market, as they can give you the slight upper hand over students without internship experience.
Something needs to be done about unpaid internships. The sad truth is that they aren’t going away any time soon. It’s ultimately up to us, the students, to figure out which internships are garbage and which ones are worthy of our time—especially if we aren’t getting paid for it.