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via [livejournal.com profile] moominmuppet

"How Unpaid Internships Perpetuate Rampant Inequality in the US," by Anna Lekas Miller

Excerpt:
Recent graduates, disturbed by the dearth of job opportunities, began to take internships as a last resort to stay competitive in the labor market. Although an internship used to be akin to an apprenticeship—a temporary stint of unpaid, hands-on labor resulting in an eventual job offer—the explosion of both college students and recent graduates taking internships no longer guarantees a paid position. Instead, as more and more young people demonstrated they were willing to supply an unpaid labor force so long as it was framed as an “internship,” internships have become a means for companies and non-profit organizations to re-package once paying jobs and cut corners in a tight economy.

Internships are the new entry-level job—the same duties and basic experience, only this time without compensation or benefits.
Unpaid internships were common when I was in college in the early 1980s, but I refused to take one. I had an idea that it was important for me to work for a paycheck. Nevertheless, my parents and I paid for my first career job in three ways: (1) I got a bachelor's degree (my parents paid my tuition); (2) I went to the Denver Publishing Institute summer program (my parents paid my tuition); (3) I took an entry level publishing job that paid $10K a year to start, which didn't cover my expenses (and my expenses didn't include student loans). However, the job did have health benefits.

I see that the long and venerable tradition of paying for entry into a career path continues, although it sounds like it's somewhat worse than it used to be. Another excerpt:
It's becoming more and more expected for college students to have had at least one, if not several, internships by the time they graduate. Students that come from a privileged background, with parents who are willing and able to finance sometimes serial internships, are able to survive in internship culture financially unscathed. Eventually, they intern for long enough to make the connections necessary to break into the white-collar world. But students from lower- or even middle-income backgrounds feel financially stressed taking on unpaid work, but many do anyway to compete with their more privileged peers in the job market.

Date: 12 Oct 2011 02:23 pm (UTC)
maize: (Default)
From: [personal profile] maize
(Another friend recently posted an unpaid internship just amongst her friends and got no takers, then posted a bitter message later about how people's "true colours" came out with that request, because nobody took her up on it. Note that most of the people she was proposing it to were people who were working in full-time paid positions, many with kids and so on. There is a real sense of entitlement about it among some people in the hiring departments. I've also had the same or other people suggest to me when I've been busy at work that I should get an intern, and when I've told them that I don't have the budget for that, they looked at me as if I had three heads and the idea of actually paying someone was ludicrous. I don't think I'd be comfortable making someone work for me for free.)

Date: 12 Oct 2011 06:12 pm (UTC)
maize: (Default)
From: [personal profile] maize
That's a good point. :)

Date: 13 Oct 2011 02:13 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] gmdreia
You can get work experience doing that, too. Especially if it's a small nonprofit and you ask the director, "can you call me an intern for the sake of my employment references?"

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