Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Unfair Internships--The Blog

Someone has set up a blog to examine the "Unfair Internship" issue. From the FAQs:

What’s an “unfair internship”?
It’s an entry-level position with normal responsibilities that benefit the employer but called an “internship” so as to avoid paying an entry-level salary or any salary at all.

What’s a “fair internship”?
It’s an internship that should be called an apprenticeship: the intern receives a lot of coaching (more than a regular new staff), his presence is more of a burden than a benefit for the organization. If the intern receives an entry-level salary, with normal responsibilities, it’s a job by another name.

It includes resources on what to do if you see that your internship is illegal under the Fair Labor Standards Act.
It also has a fair assessment of my NYT piece. I want to clarify one point: I stated in the piece that internships are not real jobs, only simulations.

Some internships involve real work. In that case, I think the intern should be fairly compensated as this blog argues.
Some internships do not involve real work. They involve busywork, and lots of staring at computer screens. In that case, I think the intern should quit.


ExIntern said...

Thanks for the post, especially since your op-ed in the NYT helped to get me to start the blog.

I guess that we used different definitions of "real job". I took it as something that one would get paid for. You defined it more as something that is professionally rewarding, which is relevant for a student who wants to gain useful experience.

technophilette said...

In response to your last point, an intern staring a computer screen, doing nothing, and therefore should quit, I think that the purpose of an internship should be defined:

Ideally an internship should be an apprenticeship, in which case they would leave with an increased level of knowledge and a set of tools that should prepare them for their future real employment.

However, as I discovered in my attempts to find a job in finance over the last year, the value of an internship is not, in fact, the knowledge that is gained. The true purpose of an internship is a line on a resume.

If a college junior has the choice between a very informative and active internship at a government agency or staring at a computer screen in a large, well-know bank, take the bank job. Do not quit. Add that line to your resume and accept the future offer of full-time employment.

The real problem is that the workforce has become so saturated that the entries on your resume are so much more important than the knowledge in your head. Most of the time.

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