Communicating Professionally

Competitive UO Senior Planner

(13) Unpaid Internships: Pro or Con? November 12, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jen J. Ashley @ 6:49 am

College students can not just graduate with a degree anymore. We need to have work experience before we can have work. (I know, seems a little like the ‘chicken or the egg’ argument.) Ok, I’ll drink the kool-aid and participate in this. The spring of my junior year I was on the hunt for an internship. Being like most college students, I needed to make money during the summer to support myself. My search for a suitable internship was not as easy and enriching as I thought it would be.

I read about so many great internships that near the end would just write in small print that it was unpaid. The amount of work most internships require are at least 30 hours a week. The internships were not mindless paper-pushing either. It was real work that would affect the bottom line of companies. I ended up not pursuing many of these non-paid ones because of principle. (And yeah, money.) I am a hard working, young professional training for a successful career. I deserve better then to work for free when the Barista down the hall makes $9.00 an hour. Fortunately, I got an internship with a great company who paid well.

At my internship I was integrated straight into a team where we worked on social media and internal communications. I had my own cubicle, computer and worked 40 + hours a week. I asked why they paid their interns so well and their response was “You guys work hard, you deserve it. Also, it is illegal not to pay you.” I was shocked! How is that possible? There are so many companies committing crimes then. Really, the only way a company can take on a unpaid intern is if they are only participating in a learning environment, like a class. They cannot help the company in any way an employee might. Basically, if you are actually doing something you need to be paid for your time.

Whenever any younger student in my school asks me about unpaid internships I make sure they understand it is illegal. Yes, you may gain valuable experience but you will be used. As an intern, you can offer talents and abilities that deserve to be recognized, appreciated, and paid for.

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2 Responses to “(13) Unpaid Internships: Pro or Con?”

  1. Ellie Boggs Says:

    I really appreciate this post. It is so true that interns should be paid for what they contribute, but if it’s illegal why hasn’t more been done to remedy the situation? Everyone has interns, even the UO.

    Also, how did you find a paid internship? So awesome.

    • More hasn’t been done because we are allowing it to take place. The way the job market is set up at this point we are in need of them, not the other way around. As I am sure you are aware we all basically have to have an internship to get a job. You can intern for places like the government for free. (What a surprise that is right?) But unless it is basically a job shadow, you need to get compensated for your skills and time.

      I actually found my internship at UO Career Center’s Website- the UO Job Link part. I interviewed for about 4 paid internships on there. I like that site because you can look at geographic locations and specific disciplines. Let me know if you need any help! Best of luck with your summer internship hunt!


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