So with this current internship "boom", the new question becomes, have internships lost their integrity?
This question comes in an era of rampant entrepreneur-ism with a new start-up taking flight what seems like every day of the week.
This is a wonderful thing, BUT....
(Pardon me while I clear my throat here)
In the midst of our fast-paced moving economic world, some things have changed--some for the better and some...well, not-so-much.
Remember back in the good ole days when you went to college and got an internship with a company and they actually TRAINED you? Once the semester was over, or when you graduated in June, you had yourself a JOB with that company? And even if you didn't get to work for them, you left with the real-life work experience that helped you land another job in that same industry or a relevant one?
It was okay that it was an unpaid internship (although sometimes you received a stipend if you were lucky) because the training and experience you got in return was well worth it. The beautiful thing about those internships is that is was an apprenticeship, so you entered in as a novice and were specifically trained to work at the place where you were interning.
See, the idea was that is was a "win-win" for everyone: you get experience and training and a high chance of getting your foot in the door of your chosen career and the employer gets a new loyal employee who-if they do a good job training well-will save the company unwelcome headaches trying to hire people already experienced, only having to train them too.
Interns, by the time they're hired, are already seasoned just the way the employer likes them---without actually spending the money to pay their salary. So everybody wins.
But what about today? Are the modern internships still a win-win situation?
I'll put it like this. When I returned to school a second time, it was in the mid-2000's. Between 2001 and 2004, I graduated from a 2-year school with an Associates in Science. I continued on to a 4-year program to get my Bachelors degree. Then when I decided to strike out and seek an internship my second year there, I discovered that it was a whole new world.
I'll never forget the woman at the Career Center handing me a piece of paper across her desk as I sat in her office inquiring about available internships. The paper she handed me was a sample resume'. I was then informed that I would be needing a resume' to apply and qualify for any and every internship I was interested in.
What was to go on this resume? I wanted to know.
She aptly replied that I needed to show whoever I wanted to intern with that I was qualified for the position.
I thought this was an internship? I responded quizzically.
I know, she said. But they need to see you have past experience.
Past experience? I blurted out. I thought that was the WHOLE POINT of getting an internship.
Her: Blank stare. Slight shrug. Ad continuum.
And so went my first experience with the modern-day internship game. One thing was clear: I wasn't in Kansas anymore.
If you look on any job board today---be it online, locally or in your college job career resource center, it seems everybody and their mama is seeking interns: corporations, fledgling internet start-ups and everything imbetween.
The question becomes, is this an internship or simply free slave labor?
Are novices and neophytes being taken advantage of here? After all, they are in a vulnerable position being that they need experience and hands-on training. Most--be it writing, graphic art, web design, and many other industries--are hard to break into without experience. So comes the age-old proverbial question: how do I get a job without experience and how do I get experience without a job? It's an extremely vulnerable position to be in--I can testify to that personally.
I've run across many businesses---especially the medium and small sized ones---that seem to be, I dare say it so bluntly, hustling people into performing free, unpaid skilled labor with supposed benefits of "putting this on your resume". Many advertise no promise of hiring you and even worse, they have no intention of training you.
Apprenticeship? Please. They require a resume' and quite often (with alot of balls, I might add) will demand a long work history---the kind of history only a veteran professional is capable of. This means that they want someone highly skilled in the field for FREE.
I'll say it one more time: Unpaid. Highly skilled. Labor.
Definitely not a win-win situation. It would be if they apprenticed you. Even if there was no room for advancement into their employee list, you still have the training to qualify for something in your field. But NO training and NO pay but ALOT of experience? Someone wins, but it sure isn't the intern.
I was an intern for a local magazine and I was expected to do a full-time workload. They were nice (the couple who "hired" me) but they weren't interested in teaching me anything. I even asked if I could shadow them and ask questions. No go. So eventually I had to leave because all my time was being required to intern for them and I literally was left with no time to actually get experience and income (which I desperately needed).
My hope is that this will become a more popular mainstream conversation because the way internships are now, there are more losers than winners.
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