Some of you out there may be looking for an internship this summer to improve your resume. Hopefully, you’ll get paid to do it, but if you don’t, at least you will get some experience under your belt.
According to an article in The New York Times, some states and the federal government feel it is their responsibility to make sure you are not taken advantage of. Now, the U.S. Department of Labor is going to start cracking down on firms that may violate rules of unpaid internships.
Since the recession started, many firms are beginning to hire unpaid interns to reduce costs. There are laws, however, if a firm wishes to hire unpaid interns. Some say that the intern must not displace paid workers and that the employer must “derive no immediate advantage” from the intern’s activities.
This sounds like a good way to kill potentially good internships.
Businesses are not in the position to be charitable organizations like these laws require them to be. What regulators are failing to realize is that businesses may not have the luxury of paying interns. In fact, they may not even offer internships to students at all.
What these busy bodies forget is that internships are a gamble for the employer. Hiring someone with no experience is a tricky thing because the young man or woman may not pan out like one would hope. With laws and bureaucracy preventing unpaid internships, some businesses may not even take that chance.
The article also states that some students complain that the internships do not teach them anything about the actual job. Many times, these interns have the responsibility of getting coffee or sweeping bathrooms. What these students should have pointed out to them is that many people who are now famous did not start out doing what they wanted to do.
Stan Lee, author of famous comics such as “Spider-Man” started out filling inkwells and proofreading. Only after he gained trust in the industry was he allowed to write comics.
Sometimes, you have to start from the bottom and work your way up, even if the job at the bottom doesn’t seem like it has anything to do with what you want to do eventually.
Another thing the article brings up is that poorer students may not be able to have unpaid internships because they may have to work for their family finances, giving wealthier students an advantage.
This is hard to believe. Well-off students probably would gravitate more toward paid internships, because they supposedly have the “connections.” Unpaid internships give poorer students the experience and a foot in the door they may not have had otherwise.
Lastly, I want to make a very important point about internships: You don’t have to work for that employer. Many other companies are willing to take you as an intern, seeing them as a valuable asset to a company. If you feel a company is treating you badly, remember that you have the power and don’t have to work there. Federal mandates and laws are not going to fix your own personal problems.
Like most other laws, they are well intended but have negative consequences. Instead of unpaid internships, no internships will be offered, and only those who are very connected will be able to get in. Paid internships are great, but the key to getting a really good job is hard work and a foot in the door.
Michael Lauck is a sophomore economics major from Houston.