Internships are for the rich

We got this email from a non-intern- priced out of her chosen industry’s employment market…

Simply put, I believe internships are only a viable option for people from high socio-economic backgrounds. I cannot afford to do free work and I will be made to suffer for it as an employer will value the 3 month admin internship one student has completed, over my 2 years of paid employment in a retail environment, just because they could take the time and money to do it in the first place.

The counter argument may be that an employer will recognise my hard work and dedication anyway? However, in my experience companies demand specific kinds of work experience. You don’t get experience if someone does not give you a chance to learn but you guessed it, they won’t give you that chance without previous experience. Thus, I expect, this vicious circle continues to haunt many other young people like me.

My friend managed to get an internship in the heart of international politics, Washington D.C. I was of course very proud of her but at the same time envious she could afford it in the first place. She will have the edge over any other competitor in future job applications having had this fantastic opportunity, whereas I, being a mere political geek and fanatic, will probably get yet another rejection email. Or I may get ignored completely as “due to high demand we will only respond to applicants requested for interview”. A thoroughly sad and pathetic image of me eagerly refreshing hotmail for months on end as I remain totally nonethewiser comes to mind.

Companies like hiring free workers, (Well that’s no surprise) but the idea of free labour is absurd. However, our government is allowing them to get away with it! Even Nick Clegg has been criticised for getting an unpaid intern. (Come on Nick, haven’t you done enough to make young people dislike you?!) If a company needs the manpower then they should pay for the labour and not fob it off as ‘work experience’. Shame on them.

So to shape all my ranting into some discernable argument, internships are a way for companies to get free admin done and as a result, employers now give it a status on a young person’s CV that those that cannot afford to work for free, are penalized for not having.

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2 Responses to “Internships are for the rich”

  1. 1 emily 08/17/2011 at 6:22 pm

    I think that your argument is incomplete. AN UNPAID INTERNSHIP IS NOT A JOB.

    Yes, I acknowledge that only people with independent backing (ie families with means) can afford to do unpaid or barely paid internships.

    But the bigger question is: where is it getting them? Your friend has 0 assurance that she will be offered a paid position at the end of her unpaid labors, and believe me, this will make the disappointment all the more bitter. At least you can say to yourself, “I didn’t sacrifice my dignity!”

    And my answer would be stick to the retail environment. The “rich” kids (and rich is a relative term) are doing unpaid internships and NOT getting paid positions relevant to their chosen fields.

    You are getting paid and NOT getting paid positions relevant to your chosen field.

    Nobody is getting paid positions BECAUSE THE GLOBAL ECONOMY IS IN RUINS.

    Furthermore employers know that the value of an unpaid internship is variable, and most of the time, unpaid internships are not very productive. Let’s be honest. So an employer who looks at a CV with 14 unpaid internships (ie I-was-on-facebook-all-day-except-for-the-2hours-i-was-invited-to-listen-in-on-a-meeting) and a CV with a few paid jobs in retail, might very well pick the CV with retail experiences — he might say “this is someone scrappy and unspoiled who knows how to work.”

    By the way, frustration and disappointment are not sentiments restricted to poor people.

    Maybe someone from a wealthy family who has studied hard all their lives and done all the “right” internships feels disappointed when he doesn’t get a paying job.

    Maybe someone rich has dreams about having a career.

    Maybe rich people are sick of unpaid internships.

  2. 2 emily 08/17/2011 at 6:25 pm


    Did you think about maintaining a blog? Perhaps writing articles – for free even- just to keep your foot in the game while doing paid retail work???

    I think this would more than even out the playing field… and display your motivation and expertise.

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