Monday, August 15, 2011

Should you be an intern? Yes, should you work for a company or institution for FREE! Well, a lot of young people do. Seniors in high school are recommended to do so. College kids do it willingly. Now, unemployed adults are interning as well. Who can afford to work for free? Rich kids. Why? Because Mom and Dad are still paying the bills. Is it a foot in the door for a good job? Is it worth the time? Or is it another shameless way for corporate companies to take advantage of good young employees?
Is it something for young people to take advantage of or are they being taken advantage of? There are more than 100 interns working for free at Colonial Williamsburg running tours while people are charged hefty entrance fees. The interns are happy and feel that they are being paid in “experience” however, family and friends are paying their expenses like food, rent and anything else they need to survive. From Yosemite, to Sea World to the White House, interns are everywhere.
Internships are almost a trend, they are so popular. Many students feel they are getting the on hand experience in a field that they haven’t learned from sitting in a classroom. One intern is a pro at it since she has taken on about 15 internships. Now she calls herself the intern queen. While most colleges have career centers to help place students, the placement varies. She started an information internship website.
Now the most important question an employer is asking an applicant for a job is , “Where did you intern?” There is a good chance that the applicant who did and internship will get that job. In a 2010 survey, 42% of college students who graduated with an internship on their resume received a job offer compared to just 30% for students with no internship experience. Those graduates with internship experience received a higher starting salary. About $42,000 compared to $35,000 without an internship.
The Vice-president of the Economic Policy Institute feels the students are being taken advantage of by everyone. He represents a non-profit Washington think tank. He says that unpaid interns are taking away what would have been paid positions. They are rich kids taking jobs away from people who need them. It also partly explains why businesses are not hiring people. If a company can get a bright young healthy college student to work for free, why hire anyone!
There are no rules. Some employers work interns 60 or 70 hours a week. They don’t have to give them overtime or health benefits or anything. It can be extremely profitable for the employer. Increasingly, the top internship jobs are going to the kids of people at the top income ladder. Who can afford to live in Washington at $4,000 a month rent and then work without being paid? Rich kids who have connections from their family or friends in high positions.
It is not the children of farm workers or factory workers that are getting these connections. It is not the kids of unemployed parents getting these internships. The upper middle class kids are benefiting from these internships. Some interns feel very guilty and feel they are taking advantage of their parents generosity. There is no financial aid that covers only an internship. If this goes further and adults agree o work for free, it degrades the entire value of work. In this economy there are adults who would rather work for free than to not work at all.
Down the road the unpaid internship will lead to a paid job. After all, you have learned the location, the people, the positions, the various jobs and through this familiarity you have become a needed entity for that company that they do not have to train. It is just easier to finally give the job to the former intern. They suddenly don’t know what to do without you. Besides, you might still be willing to get coffee for the boss.
Interns consider their time interning somewhere as a 3 month job interview. Working for no money is a risk. Although you do not have the benefit of immediate cash rewards, you might have the benefit of immediate enlightenment at an occupation that might lead to a position that will pay cash far better than they thought they would have received.

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