Thursday, October 24, 2013

Unpaid Internship? No thank you.

If you want me to post your internship, it had better be paid. Otherwise, I won't promote it. I also won't recommend any students work for your company. Period.

Why? Simple. The more I research unpaid internships, the more I discover they offer little value to the student. In the cases where they do, the student was typically worked to the bone doing the job of a full-time employee -- sometimes more than one -- for no compensation other than "experience." I call that slave labor. It's unethical. It's immoral. And in most cases, it's illegal. A court ruling over the summer may end them once and for all. But it will take time.

In the meantime, I continually hear from my own students and students who follow my Twitter feed that their unpaid internships were brutal, exhausting, and frequently offered little supervision or training. One student who worked in an unpaid internship this past summer told me he wrote eight stories a week for the newspaper. He never once received feedback from the editor. He had to drive his own car to assignments without reimbursement for gas. And he was expected to pay for parking for the privilege of college credit -- for which he was also paying -- with nothing else in return. Yes, he says he got a ton of clips, but he also worked 45 hours a week. And when his internship ended, the small-town paper (which I won't name, but probably should, because the editor their won't call me back to confirm this) then advertised for a full-time paid reporter to replace him. In essence, the paper used him as free labor over the summer to fill an open position, and when his 10-week internship ended, they filled the void. They should have paid him. I told him to sue. He wants to forget about it.

More and more of these stories are cropping up in the news. And most of the time, it's because corporate greed outweighs doing the right thing.

I've decided I can no longer morally support unpaid internships. And I won't. Students, I'm sorry, but if you want one, you will have to find them through another source.