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Are Unpaid internships the new Job?


With college graduations just around the corner, you can find most university seniors frantically scrambling around trying to sort out their lives before diplomas are placed in their trembling hands.  Feeling the pressure from family, friends, and sometimes even random strangers who question them constantly on how they plan to land a job during a recession certainly doesn’t instill confidence these youths.

Graduates are worried, and for good reason.  During college, students are encouraged to participate in unpaid internships, where they acquire vital skills preparing them for a real job once they enter the real world.  Unfortunately, for many interns, this skill-set consists of placing coffee orders, folding papers, and delivering mail.

In reality, none of these responsibilities have prepared them for anything more than being a functioning human being.  One is better off working at the Post Office or at Starbucks, where they would at least be paid for their services.  But young people dream of interesting jobs, often in the industries that suffer the most during hard economic times: entertainment, music, fashion, and publishing to name a few.  As popular as careers in these fields are, paid positions are rare.

With most college interns not gaining the necessary experience that will help land even entry-level jobs, what options does one have as a graduate?  Did all those hours of free labor equal nothing?  Are they destined to take another unpaid internship if it means working in the field of their choice?  And with so many people forced to take unpaid internships when no other offers are being made, it makes landing an internship that much more competitive.

Taking an unpaid internship after college is not only frustrating for morale but also painful on the bank account.  Only the financially stable can survive in New York City with a monthly income of $0.  Cities like New York are expensive so unless you are a trust fund kid, an unpaid gig isn’t likely to help you in the long run.

This predicament certainly leaves young adults in quite a bind.  Many entry-level jobs in the market today do not even count internship experience as real experience.  A job listing may state a minimum of 1-2 years experience, but don’t be fooled by this.  There is usually a line also stating that internship experience does not count.  How is the youth of America supposed to get “real” experience if nobody will hire them in the first place?

The key to getting hired after an internship often depends on how irreplaceable you prove to be.  Sometimes interns are lucky and are chosen to fill a recently vacated entry-level position. Many, however, are not offered employment upon completion because the company sees them as replaceable.

In large companies who regularly have hundreds of interns at any given time, it becomes increasingly difficult for one to stand out.  There will always be a surplus of new interns ready to work for free.  While this does cut company costs it makes landing a paid job even more unlikely.

So how does America plan to solve this problem?  According to news reports, unemployment is down and more jobs are soon to be created.  If these jobs require mid-level skills, the average college graduate will still be left with few options but to continue interning for free.  If, however, more entry-level jobs geared to these young adults are created, then this gives them a much better shot at getting their foot in the door somewhere.

Strangely enough, companies do recognize the importance of the youth generation.  While young adults often lack confidence in the workspace they are powerful in their understanding of modern trends and youth culture.  With that said, hopefully college grads will realize their own worth within the workplace and use this confidence to their advantage.