I read an article last semester that said students who have a minimum of three internships under their belt during college have a much higher chance of being offered a job upon graduation.
After reading this, I panicked and realized I was going to be graduating in less than a year with zero internships to boast and little to no real-world experiences that would impress employers.
I hopped to it and applied to a lot of places before the end of last semester. Lo and behold, I heard back from an organization, had my interview and almost immediately landed the internship.
Although there was some confusion at first, the contract very clearly stated I would not be paid for the hours I worked for the organization. I signed the contract at the time, feeling only a little trepidation at the prospect of committing several hours of my life to a place that would not compensate me for my labor after all, I hold two other paying jobs.
After a month of being an unpaid intern, I can wholeheartedly say if you ever have an opportunity to step into a similar situation, do not under any circumstance comply.
It’s not that I hate my internship because I don’t get paid, I actually really love my internship. I went into the internship understanding fully that I would not be paid. They promised me experience, and I have received that and more.
It’s actually the “and more” that bothers me. I spend 15 to 20 hours a week doing the same work a staff writer is hired to do, but because I am classified as an unpaid intern, my employer is technically not required to pay me as long as he or she complies with the Department of Labor’s laws regarding interns — the experience is for my benefit, it acts in the place of an educational environment, I have a complete understanding I am not entitled to wages, etc.
But who can define the beneficial value of an internship? There is a reason interns hold the stereotype of only being good for making coffee runs. If internships, like mine, are really providing great experiences for young students and others, then who is to say an entry-level worker is not being displaced, another stipulation set by the government?
Those who hire the interns should start treating internships like entry-level jobs and pay minimum wage. If all the intern is doing is getting coffee, that’s fine. If he or she is doing the same amount of work as an employee, that is even better.
At least they are not being exploited for their labor through a legally ambiguous loophole. No matter how great an unpaid internship may be, everyone should stand up for that principle.