What if I told you that you could have your dream job- all you have to do is work for free, full-time, for 1 year. Would you do it?
Before you decide that you’ll do anything to get your dream job, even work for free, think about what that really means. Unless you have zero expenses, or someone is paying your expenses for you, working for free means you’ll most likely need to get a second job just to afford your living expenses. Having two jobs means you’ll have to kiss your social life goodbye, as you’ll have no time, and likely no extra money, to do anything fun. Would you still do it?
What if you only had to work for free part-time? Does that sound more appealing? What if you also had a full 20 credits worth of college classes to attend, plus the equivalent amount of homework, a work study job on campus and maybe an additional paying part-time job? Does that still sound appealing?
This is the dilemma that most of today’s college students are faced with. Unpaid internships have become a prerequisite for many entry level positions, and the sad fact is that they hardly ever lead directly to your “dream” job (or even the entry-level equivalent).
So it should come as no surprise that a large percentage of Millenials object to unpaid internships.
My views are a little more complicated than that. I generally don’t have a problem with unpaid internships as long as the intern is doing tasks that are helping them gain real world experience in their chosen field. I start to have a problem with unpaid internships when the intern is not learning anything or doing what I like to call “personal assistant” tasks (i.e. coffee runs, dry cleaning pick up, etc.). On that same note, it seems like a lot of companies overlook the fact that interns need to make money, attend classes, have a life or all of the above. “Life experience” is not adequate compensation when you’re asking someone to work full time. No matter how great the job is, it’s unreasonable to expect someone to work full time for no pay. Companies should understand that and structure their internships accordingly.
Internships are everywhere these days, and they, much to the dismay of many recent graduates, seem to be taking the place of entry-level positions. Nowadays, it seems like companies want you to have at least a year of experience in the exact position they’re offering before they will consider you for the exact (entry-level) position they’re offering! How, may I ask, are you supposed to get a year of experience if no one will hire you WITHOUT A YEAR OF EXPERIENCE?! Isn’t the whole point of an entry level position to give you experience since you don’t have any, or have very little, to begin with? This is all fine and good if you went to college knowing exactly what you wanted to do and had internships that corresponded with that, but what if you didn’t know what you wanted to do until you left college, or you did a bunch of internships that helped you figure out what you don’t want to do and now you want to get a job doing what you do want to do? What about people who switch careers? Do all of the people in these situations just get left behind?
Unpaid internships can be a very good thing, but unless we can figure out their place in the business world, and bring back true entry-level positions, the system will never work the way it’s supposed to.
Did you have any unpaid internships when you were in college? Share your experiences in the comments!