Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Unpaid Internships

Condé Nast officially announced they were discontinuing their internship program. Upon hearing this I was overcome with extreme disappointment. Women’s Wear Daily released this statement, “The end of the program comes after the publisher was sued this summer by two former interns who claimed they were paid below the minimum wage during internships at and The New Yorker.”

I have been thinking about this topic a lot since reading about it. I see two opinions regarding the topic: those who feel lucky to have the experience, and those who feel used.
With the scarce number of job openings for college graduates, the number of unpaid internships has skyrocketed. While the intern is not making any money, the student is provided a valuable opportunity for on-the-job training at a much lower cost than paying for class credit, while gaining much more experience.
For many successful journalists, unpaid internships are where they got their foot in the door. Leandra Medine from The Man Repeller stated regarding her three magazine internships, “I was completely broke, always tired, had no social life and yet — I wouldn’t trade it. Textbooks can’t teach you experience, and the education I received was greater than I thought it could be.”
In 2011, the National Association of Colleges and Employers found that 82 percent of graduating students had held internships, up from the 17 percent shown in a 1999 study by Northwestern University. 70 percent of these are unpaid. Editor from the New York Times stated it simply, “You work for free, get the experience, network, and you eventually get hired."

Producer Melvin Mar’s internship experience was far from glamorous. As an unpaid intern he was responsible for picking his boss’ lunch up everyday, and keeping it scalding hot. He stated "I owe a lot to the lessons learned 15 years ago…it was about getting it right, the details. It prepared me for everything else.”
On the contrary one Ivy League student stated, “I spent three months interning at a magazine, unpaid. There I packaged and shipped 20 or 40 apparel samples a day back to fashion houses that had provided them for photo shoots.” One must pay their dues before making it to the top. These are facts of the business, and teach details of the industry one would never learn without this experience.

Having an unpaid internship of my own, I have given this topic a lot of thought. Some days I see myself as a student and my bosses as teachers. Other days I am required to do mindless work, but I can honestly say it has taught me tenacity.  I know I want this. I have to put in the work first.
I thoroughly believe you cannot and will not, thrive in any industry without tenacity. I feel like this opportunity will serve as a valuable steppingstone for my future, because I am gaining experience. You have to stick it out while your industry weeds out the lazys. Nobody wants to hire a lazy…. But that’s just my opinion.


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