Today’s youngest members of the workforce are considered the most educated in history. However, with the economy the way it’s been, these 20-24 year olds are still not landing jobs. So they’re seeking other ways to gain that experience in order to get a foot in the door. This often means taking an unpaid internship.
As of 2011, 1 in 2 students who graduated had an unpaid internship experience under their belts. At not-for-profit companies, this is actually illegal. In the for-profit world, it’s not illegal if they get academic credit for it.
Where am I getting this information? From a new infographic that was put out by OnlineCollegeCourses.com called “Think Before You Intern.”
In the infographic, I learned that studies show students who intern without receiving pay in return tend to learn less, perform more menial tasks, and be hired on full-time at a lower rate than students who are paid for their internships. It also goes on to say the intern actually ends up PAYING for the internship, as they have to pay for their college education. (At public schools, in-state students pay an average of $253.50 per credit hour.)
If you’re a student reading this right now, don’t freak out! When I interned in college in 2004, my internship was unpaid, but at the for-profit company I worked for, I received credits put towards my PR major. Ultimately, the internship wasn’t really beneficial to where I wanted to go. In college, I was adamant I wanted to work in PR at an agency, and I ended up getting there (and still am there today! yeah, goal setting!) My internship was working in the promotions department of a radio station. It was fun, I learned some, but the tasks I did were not beneficial to helping me land an agency job. (That was my fault though, since I didn’t put enough time and effort into my search.) So, what I did after I graduated was network, network, network. If you’ve been reading my blog, you know how adamant I am on that. I am still a pro-networker, if I do say-so myself. The first job I ended up getting after college (that was relevant) was a PR apprentice in an ad agency (which was basically an internship). It was paid, offering me real skills I still use today.
So what’s a college student to do? I say — if you are in an unpaid position and not doing the tasks you want to be doing, speak up and ask! The worse they can say is no. If you’re looking for a job and get an interview, ask what you’ll be doing on a day-to-day basis to make sure it’s beneficial to both you and the employer. Sometimes, unpaid is all you can get to acquire experience, and you can’t be picky. It’s sort of a catch-22. So speak up and make sure it’s worth your while. If it’s not – at least get involved in professional organizations, and look elsewhere. Yes, paid is best, but if you’re getting the experience you need at an unpaid position, by all means, rock it! You may need to supplement with a paid position elsewhere like a server or retail job, but it will be worth it in the end.
What are your thoughts on paid vs. unpaid? Take a look at the infographic below and leave your opinion in the comments.