Reassuring students that unpaid internships can be priceless

November 8, 2011 at 8:54 am | Posted in Views on the News | Leave a comment
Coach Susan Sandberg

Susan Sandberg

Students are already lining up for spring and even summer internships, so it’s time to acknowledge that elephant in the room—the controversy over unpaid internships. As a career services professional, it’s up to you to counterbalance the negative effects of the book Intern Nation or news stories, such as the students who sued their internship company last summer for compensation.  Here are a few ways to correct any inaccurate impressions and reassure your students that unpaid internships can be excellent investments in their futures:

  • Cite student experiences:  Students may be more likely to believe other students who reaffirm that their unpaid internships were valuable experiences. You could share a recent article by a student in the Simmons Voice at Simmons College. “It can be difficult to see the value in unpaid work, especially in such a chaotic economy, but internships hold value for both the intern and those who employ them. . . Internship programs make it possible for smart, hardworking college students or graduates to learn about the field of work that they are hoping to enter, while making it possible for businesses to hire them with no salary and give them the smaller jobs that paid employees might scoff at.”  Ask experienced students at your own school to testify to the value of their unpaid internships to incoming interns, supporting your professional viewpoint.
  • Cite statistics:  A study by Aerotek, a leading staffing provider, reports that 57 percent of adults would recommend an internship to make getting a post-graduate job easier. Furthermore, 55 percent of those who held internships found their current job through networking, according to a recent article by columnist Dan Schawbel in Metro US. Impress upon your students the huge number of choices in unpaid internships. For example, currently offers 148,865 positions from 27,598 companies in 6,688 cities in 50 states. The majority of these internships is unpaid but is often with major companies that match your students’ interests. Remind your students that an unpaid internship helps them learn new skills and maximizes their networking opportunities and is worth more than a paid internship that may not further a student’s career.
  • Cite resume benefits:  Resumes are more important than ever since the resume is the tool that usually gets a student an interview and then an offer for an internship or a job. The competition among resumes is fierce, especially since technology means every position can receive hundreds of emailed resumes. Most student resumes, especially for freshmen and sophomores, rely on part-time, menial jobs, college activities, or even high school accomplishments. Rather than spending time searching for a paid internship, a student would benefit more by taking unpaid internships and adding them to his/her resume. After a few unpaid internships, a student can drop the fast-food entries and add impressive professional experience with reputable organizations that will lead to more interviews and ultimately to better internships and eventually to paying jobs.

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