Q. What can we do when our students complain about unpaid, no-credit internships?

July 29, 2010 at 11:19 am | Posted in Intern Compensation | Leave a comment
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by the Intern Coach

A. Remind your students that internships—even ones that don’t offer pay or credit—are still solid investments in their career futures. Suggest that your students maximize their internship experiences in the following ways: 

  • Networking:  The most effective way to find other opportunities for themselves is networking, which is acknowledged as the primary method to get a job or an internship. A July 19 article in The New York Times says that dozens of young people with connections to Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s friends, business associates and government appointees have been awarded internships at City Hall. Your students have probably started a good network for themselves at their internships. Ask each intern to make a list of everyone at the internship and find out if he/she can suggest any other internship possibilities. Your students could use social media to stay in touch with their networking list when the internship is over.
  • Next internship:  Experience at a summer internship is a great building block for the next internship. Now that your students have mastered the art of being a professional in a work setting they’re ready to advance up the ladder. With excellent recommendations in hand, they can apply for more advanced assignments at more prestigious firms. A potential internship supervisor knows that your students are a proven quantity and will “fit in” nicely to other internship programs. Students should also consider that their summer internships may have helped them realize that they don’t really like that industry and would not want to focus their careers on that field. Now they have time to change majors and explore other fields before it’s too late in their academic careers.
  • Course papers or class projects:  Every summer internship provides endless resources for a course paper or class project. And your students have already done the research if they use material from one of their internship assignments. They can incorporate case studies or company reports (unless they’re confidential) to support their papers. Or if they are members of a class team that is instructed to collaborate with a company on a project, they could ask their former internship company to fill that requirement. Another way in which your students can tap back into their internships is to ask someone from the internship site to be a speaker for a campus event. Your students will soon see that unpaid, no-credit internships are a priceless experience.

Q. How can I explain to students that unpaid internships can be priceless because they are investing in their own futures?

June 1, 2010 at 11:48 am | Posted in Intern Compensation | Leave a comment
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by the Intern Coach

A. This is a hot topic in the news right now, so it’s important to address it with your students immediately, whether they are currently doing internships or looking for fall internships. Consider sending an informative and reassuring email out to all your students involved in the internship process, explaining why unpaid internships can be priceless. You might want to send them a link to the Wall Street Journal article, May 18, 2010, “Creating Internships Out of Thin Air,” to validate your explanation. Here are several reasons you can give as to why unpaid internships are excellent investments: 

  • You receive letters of recommendation, which will help you get future internships, which may be paid. Count on having multiple internships, each one better than the previous one.
  • You may earn school credit, which will free up space in your academic program to take other courses (or more internships) or to concentrate on those time-intensive classes with long labs.
  • You could follow the advice of Colleen Sabatino, career coach at internships.com, who was quoted in the above Wall Street Journal article. She suggests that you ask the company about any options for pay, such as a stipend or even a part-time job at minimum wage. You may have to cut back your hours if you have to work in another job.
  • You could ask the Career Center if it has any funding available or knows of any government-related monies for internships. New opportunities come up all the time, so check federal and state sites often.
  • You also have career-related experience to strengthen your resume. Remember, it’s your resume that gets you the all-important interview. After a few unpaid internships, you can drop your high-school entries and add impressive professional experience, which will get you the interview.  Investments usually take a while to pay off, so start investing in yourself now.

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