This is a topic that really needs an entire book (definitely check out Intern Nation by Ross Perlin) but I’m going to air my grievances here in as few words as possible for all of you.
Internships in my experience have never been paid. I have been laughed out of offices for asking for minimum wage or less when I have been sitting next to someone making 50K a year doing the exact same job as me.
Let’s do the math here. 20 hours a week at $8 an hour for an entire year = $8840 . That’s imagining that you’re asking for only 20 hours a week. I’ve had ones that required you to be there 40 hours a week which equals $17680. That’s not a bad trade off to get another body on board, doing the exact same job, for a third of the price. So employers, please don’t tell me that you can’t afford an intern. An intern is a bargain and you and I both know it.
The second argument after “I can’t afford it” is always “but it’s not real work”. Yes, it’s not a salary job and I would call you crazy if you paid an intern a salary. But it is still work. You pay your receptionist, cleaning crew, messengers, and even the pizza delivery guy. So if an internship is not considered work, none of these jobs are considered work either apparently, since I have done all of them while interning.
“But you get school credit” is also not a valid argument. I pay for my school credits, and I feel that it’s completely backwards that I have to pay for the privilege of working for a company.
There is really no excuse for a company not to pay their interns. But why do the interns care whether they are getting paid? There are a few companies who believe that the prestige and name on someone’s resume is enough payment already.
When it comes down to it I believe being paid makes me more valuable in my employer’s eyes. There were plenty of times where I wouldn’t do anything for large chunks of time because since I wasn’t being paid, there was no reason to get as much work out of me as possible. This wasn’t a case of my being lazy, it was a case of my boss just not having anything that needed to be done.
My time is valuable to me. Even if my time is not worth anything to the company, I’m giving it up when I could be using it for a second job to pay for rent and food, or studying for classes. Also (thankfully this wasn’t the case with my internships) several of my friends were coerced into doing illegal or dangerous jobs while interning. Apparently job safety laws don’t apply when you’re not on payroll.
Another reason I’m against unpaid internships is because they create unfair opportunities for the wealthier classes. If mom and dad can’t support you during school you can’t do those unpaid internships. You need to work an actual job to feed yourself and pay for rent. The few internships that are paid you can believe that people are crawling over each other to have them. Then if you don’t have the experience on your resume you don’t get that high paying job after college or you wind up interning after college for free, which sets you back a few years. So when your own kids want to go to college, you have to say “sorry, I can’t afford it”, and the cycle starts again.
All I’m asking is for companies to treat interns like employees. Pay me some nominal fee to show that my time is valuable and my work is worth something to you. Or why not install the apprenticeship system? Have me work for a company for six months my senior year for free, with the guarantee that if I perform up to par that I will have a job with the company after I put in my time and prove myself.
As the system stands, I believe that internships are oftentimes the newest form of indentured servitude. But perhaps I’m completely wrong, since I’m basing this off my friends and my experience in NYC. What do you think?Tweet