What to consider when accepting an unpaid internship

Tuesday, July 2, 2013 | Stamp in My Passport||

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

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In 2010 President Obama began to look into the legality of companies not paying interns. According to the Labor Department, unpaid internships are considered legal only if they are structured educational experiences for the benefit of the intern rather than the company and offer no promise of a job after the internship ends. Nonprofit organizations, unlike private sector companies, are able to offer unpaid internships because part of their labor force is typically made up of volunteers.
Today, many career fields require or prefer 1-3 years of experience from their entry level applicants. Even though the government and the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) are cracking down on unpaid private sector internships, there are still hundreds of opportunities out there.You may find yourself in the position of choosing to work solely for experience instead of a paycheck this summer or in the fall. If so, here are a few points about unpaid internships to consider.
  1. You gain valuable work experience and an inside look into an industry. It’s called “experiential learning” for a reason. At some point in your education, you need to put your theoretical and book knowledge to use. Being able to ace a multiple choice test is not a skill employers care to see on your resume.
  2. You have a competitive advantage when applying for jobs after graduation. Employers want to see that you did more than just attend class for four years. Your portfolio will benefit from a summer spent interning at a company or organization more than a summer spent folding T-shirts at Gap.
  3. You gain networking opportunities. As the age-old saying goes, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” Your time spent at an internship will allow you to get to know professionals at your company or organization as well as others in the community as well. Making connections in your industry will make landing your first post-collegiate job a little easier.
  1. You may not be able to afford living expenses or tuition without a paid summer job. One of the debates surrounding the issue of mandatory paid internships is that unpaid internships give students from wealthy families a leg up on their peers. It builds their resumes and sets them up for better jobs upon graduation.
  2. If the majority of internships are required by law to be paid, companies will cut back on the number of internships available to shrink their labor costs. With a smaller pool of internships to choose from, students will have a difficult time finding opportunities to gain industry experience before graduation.
  3. Picking up coffee and making copies is not experiential learning. One of the NACE’s required criteria for internships is that they must not be work that a regular employee would routinely perform. Companies cannot get away with hiring “interns” to handle administrative tasks without pay. Before you accept an unpaid internship, make sure to ask about the tasks you will be expected to perform; if you are only going to make the afternoon Starbucks run, then you may want to consider another opportunity.
Whatever your plans are for this summer or for summers to come, it is important to consider the advantages and disadvantages of internships, even unpaid ones. Even if your major does not require one for graduation, an internship or two will give you a head start0 on your competition in the job market.

1 comment:

Laura Side Street said...

I think the important thing is to look at the pros and con's very carefully - sometimes internships really help and do lead to employment but at other times they are a waste of time and money. I had a friend working at magazine, they kept extending her internship and promising as soon as a role became available she would be put forward for a paid role - she ended up working there over a year, when a role became available they offered it to her, after a month she hadn't seen any pay, then when she asked about it they said they felt her work wasn't up to scratch and actually was not what they were looking for - funny how she was what they were looking for when she was working for free! Thats just one example, I think as long as your getting something from the internship it's a good idea, when your not you need to move forward to the next thing

Laura x