Unpaid internships are a scam, amounting to nothing more than free labor for companies and businesses. Studies, though not definitive, suggest unpaid intern- ships at for-profit businesses offer no benefits for graduates.
There is a distinction to be drawn. Volunteering and unpaid internships at nonprofit institutions, often work- ing with shoestring budgets, can provide experience and contacts in industries that cannot afford paid in- terns. The key difference is no one is making a profit off free hard work.
Generally, students with unpaid internship experience are offered lower starting salaries than those without internship experience. It seems to fly in the face of everything we are told about internships and their résumé-saving activities. Why unpaid internships have such coun- terintuitive effects on employment isn’t clear. What is clear is unpaid internships with for-profit businesses are unfair to students.
In fact, unpaid internships are barely even legal in California. Businesses must meet strict criteria to have unpaid interns. Most of the regulation is there to ensure interns have no illusions that what they do is in fact a job, or will guarantee them a job with actual pay. Because interns cannot displace a regular employee, unpaid internships don’t really provide work experience. Yet students are often pressured into performing jobs normally done by paid workers. Students don’t benefit, and businesses get to cut a job or two.
If unpaid internships are unfair, unhelpful and borderline illegal, why are they on the rise? It’s because students are willing to submit themselves to unfair conditions for the sake of a résumé boost. From the moment we enter college, we are told our diploma is useless without at least one internship under our belts. Professors, counselors and advisersbeat internships into our heads until it seems like college is just a waiting room on the way to an internship. Internships really are important. Students need real-world experience if they want to succeed in their future careers.
That doesn’t mean students should allow businesses to take advantage. Everything everyone does in a business is geared toward one thing: making money. From the guy emptying out the trash cans to the chief executive behind a mahogany and gold desk, profit is vital for a company. That is the sole reason behind the existence of a business. This means every task an intern performs in a business is helping someone profit, no matter how small the role. Interns deserve to be rewarded for the revenue they generate.
Next time you’re offered an un-paid internship, demand pay. If they say no, turn it down. It’ll be hard to do, but remember: your skills, talents and time are valuable. You deserve to be rewarded for them. Even if you are lucky enough to be offered school credit, remember you are paying for those units with your tuition fees. Not with vague promises of future jobs, but with the actual pay the job you’re performing deserves.