The common defense of the unpaid internship is that, even if the role doesn't exactly pay, it will pay off eventually in the form of a job. Turns out, the data suggests that defense is wrong, at least when it comes to college students.
Reader Mailbag on Internships
Reader "CM" writes ....
Just two weeks ago, our human resources department blocked us from taking on an unpaid summer intern. The college student did not have any professional experience, but was trying to do something productive with his summer. My colleague decided to give him a shot. HR blocked the internship for fear of breaking the law.
By the time Ladan Nowrasteh got her masters degree in journalism, her resume was stacked with experience. Her bank account wasn’t nearly as full.
Like many students trying to get a leg up, Nowrasteh, 26, of Falls Church, Virginia, worked a string of unpaid internships while in undergraduate and graduate school. She often had to work part-time jobs simultaneously to pay for things like food and rent.
"If only I'd known then what I know now..." This familiar statement particularly applies to careers, where success is mostly achieved through experience, trial and error. What if, instead, you had the inside track on what to expect before an experience began?
Recruitment firms are emphasising the importance of direct experience to the job role being more essential than the educational background of a job-seeker. This is something that I myself was shocked to realise when after numerous consultations with specialists regarding my curriculum vitae, I saw the impressive education section of my CV move from the top to practically the bottom in an attempt to persuade employers to give me an interview.
It's increasingly important in today's tough job market to get real-world experience on your resume. A good internship gives you a chance to get the skills you need, form connections with future employers, and sometimes make a pretty good salary.
Internships are probably one of the industry’s most hated ways to ‘pay your dues’. Often they are associated with students, as 75% of students do an internship while attending or directly after a 4 year school. That number has doubled in the last 30 years.