Backtalk & Feedback: Internships

Attention college students- are you looking for a summer internship right now? Right now this very minute? Oh no. You’re not?!

Well, you should because if you don’t find a great internship soon, you’ll never get a job and then you’ll have to move back home and live in your parent’s basement and sell cars over at your Uncle Larry’s and never amount to anything….

Yes, folks, sometimes it can seem like the college internship is the single most important thing you will ever do in your entire life. But don’t despair because not getting a pre-career internship is certainly not the end of the world.

Living in your parent’s basement is. Yet obtaining a meaningful summer job certainly is a helpful step in the right direction.

Working at a summer internship is a great introduction to the workplace. Your co-workers usually impart lots of valuable information about the job (meaning: they gripe about the wages) and supervisors usually don’t think you’re very capable so they give you lots of easy tasks. Then they are amazingly impressed when you get them done.

But in all seriousness, internships ultimately present the opportunity to decide if that career choice is right for you. But here’s my complaint with the whole situation: I want employers out there to know that the word internship is not synonymous with “free labor.”

If I wanted to work for free, I’d go back to Uncle Larry. Or move out of America. There are so many well-respected companies out there that offer fantastic internships. You could be a museum tour guide and be an assistant to the curator. You could help interview rock stars for a music magazine. You could work on Alzheimer’s research in a science lab.

I’m not saying the opportunities don’t abound; they’re just not always abundantly paid. Students job-searching today will most likely encounter a wealth of employment positions yet the vast majority of these jobs will most likely be unpaid.

And don’t give me that malarkey that goes something like, “Most internships are unpaid by definition. You were lucky to be hired in the first place.” Or companies will tell you that you can obtain school credit. This is the year 2004, the economy’s not great, and apprenticeships only exist a) in the Middle Ages or b) if you’re Donald Trump.

Luck has nothing to do with finding a summer position; hard work and persistence does. Also, most internships these days require serious, valuable undertakings. No longer are interns around just to get grab coffee and work the fax machine. And come on, if I wanted to get school credit, I’d pay to enroll in a class.

So I encourage college students everywhere to be ambitious this spring. Don’t just apply for an internship, demand that you get paid. Don’t bring this up of course, until you are receiving the “welcome aboard” handshake and already negotiating your own parking space in the lot.

But when this does happen, show your future boss how capable and aggressive you are and remind him or her that nobody worth anything works for free.

So whatever you do this summer, have fun. You will hopefully learn lots of new things, and not just things that look good on a resume. But remember that you are not a volunteer and hard work deserves hard cash.