If you ask me of my opinion on internships, as many of my closer friends know, you'll probably get some sort of long-winded rant about the stupidity of unpaid indentured servitude for people who are no longer in college and using the internship to gain credit. (If we're talking a PAID internship, I'm less likely to rant.)
First off, is it just me, or am I crazy for subscribing to the notion that a person should get paid for his or her work? Yes, getting coffee and filing papers or answering telephones is not exactly a glamorous mode of employment, but it should still command at least minimum wage. Employers expecting a prospective employee to have years (in some cases) of internship requirements before they can be hired for an actual, paying job are in my opinion absolutely cheating new graduates out of their time. Don't get me wrong, I worked for two years as a congressional district office intern, answering phones, getting coffee, shuffling papers, cutting news clippings, faxing, copying, and otherwise earning my way into some valuable experience - in college. Now when I need a paying job, most places are telling people like me to get internship experience first.
This brings me to what I consider the biggest crock of the 21st century: Ryan (of Ryan Beck's Communications Commentary fame) recently sent me an article from the New York Times all about the latest job hunting craze - paying services to find you unpaid internships. SCREECH! Stop the car right there: paying a service to find an UNpaid internship is about as stupid an idea as putting metal in a microwave oven. Or smoking at a gas station.
In the case of the kiddies mentioned in the article, parents are shelling out sometimes THOUSANDS of dollars to use these services. One kid's parents paid a service $8,000 to land him at an internship in New York City with Ford Models.
For the services, it's just business: "Students don't have problems finding internships, students have problems getting internships," said one representative of an internship-placement service. Apparently, the employers like the middlemen, as it saves them the time and expense of actually looking for qualified candidates to pour steaming hot mugs of coffee and fax paperwork. Some people worry that it's not letting the kiddies or graduates fend for themselves and develop great life rejection skills.
Unpaid internships are unfair to begin with, weeding out potentially stellar talent by forcing only those who can afford to stay with their relatives for years on end while working menial jobs trying to sock away a little money until an agency gives them a transition from intern to paid worker. Whatever happened to the philosophy of John Locke: you reap what you sow? If I am going to do work, I damn well better be getting paid for it.
That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.