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Tough Choices: Paid, Unpaid or Purchased Internships

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Ron Culp

Corporate executive turned agency guy.

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Whittier College Intern Hopefuls

I got an email this week from the father of a college sophomore, requesting my point of view regarding his plan to buy a summer internship for his son.  The "helicopter parent" is focused on building his son's resume so he hopefully lands a good job upon graduation or impresses the best graduate schools. 

 

The internship in question is being offered by University of Dreams for the same amount the student should be making in a traditional summer job.  The student isn't sure about the profession he wants to pursue, so I suggested that the father save his money.  While two or three internships are now the "cost of entry" in post-college job searches, I certainly don't think you should buy an internship between the sophomore and junior years of college. 

I'm alarmed about the increasing number of unpaid internships.  Unless an internship is with a nonprofit organization or qualifies for at least three college credits, all interns should be paid. 

Parents, students and mainly employers need to adhere to state and federal laws governing internships.  The New York Times sheds important light on legal implications of unpaid internships.  The article quotes a U.S. Labor Department official, who says, "If you're a for-profit employer or you want to pursue an internship with a for-profit employer, there aren't going to be many circumstances where you can have an internship and not be paid and still be in compliance with the law."   My bottom line:  If an organization benefits financially from an internship, they should pay for the help.   

 

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3 Comments

jtobin625 said:

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Interesting that this kind of post is on Chicago Now where the pay is little to nothing...from what I have heard and read from others.

Jackie Tithof Steere said:

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Roughly 21 years ago, I took an unpaid internship (for college credit) at an NBC-affiliate television station. It took a lot of interviewing to get it and in the end I think I "got" it merely from knowing someone on staff. I learned a lot, mostly that I didn't want to enter the production end of things. A year later I took another unpaid internship (don't remember if there was college credit involved) at a radio station and within weeks that turned into a paid position. I gained tons of experience and found my true love (then news). I think people take these unpaid internships (blogger positions) for the experience and hope of one day being paid...at least I do...and it's always worked for me.

Flora said:

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Not only today is there a rising issue with so-called "Unpaid Internships" but light should also be shed on a new phenomenon that is that of the "Eternal Internship"...

Many of us, part of the summer 2008 and 2009 graduating classes were unfortunately incredibly hard-hit by the smack of the recession and the rise in unemployment...

Eager to gain experience and hopeful to one day find jobs, we thus, entered an endless cycle of "Eternal Internships"...one after another in hopes of finally reaching "Eternal Employment"...

It seems as though there is finaly a little light at the end of the tunnel, but times have been tough and the "Eternal Issue" phenomemon is not one to be ignored (often coupled with the 'unpaid' phenomenon - double whamy!).

If you want to check our story out (my story as well as that of two friends), please check us out at : www.the-eternal-intern.blogspot.com.

We span 2 continents, 3 different cities, 3 different industries...and yet we are still restricted by this Eternal Intern phenomenon...

Flora

www.the-eternal-intern.blogspot.com

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