The Vermont Cynic

The intern generation

Mills Sparkman

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“You think kids want to come with their parents and take fox-trot lessons? Trips to Europe, that’s what the kids want. Twenty-two countries in three days.”

This line was uttered by hotel owner Max Kellerman in the 1987 film “Dirty Dancing,” and his sentiment of teenagers wanting different opportunities than their parents persists.

While their parents worked at restaurants, camps or other seasonal jobs, today’s students tend to think outside the box, by necessity.

According to a Pew Research Center study, the amount of workers in occupations that require more educational, professional and business services training, has grown from 49 million in the 1980s to 83 million today, a 68 percent increase.

The amount of workers whose jobs required less preparation only grew 31 percent, which increases the motivation for students to go into more lucrative fields. Their parents grew up in a generation where the two sectors were more closely matched, and there was less opportunity and incentive to aim higher.

Today, real career experience starts earlier, often through internships. The difference between an internship and a job is that an internship must have a learning component, according to America’s Job Exchange.

Internships may seem beneficial because they give students real-world experience in their chosen field. But they are often unpaid or only offer academic credit.

Today, students regularly have to choose between a paid job that does not help them with their future career, or an unpaid one that promises a learning experience and nothing else.

Yet, there is a silver lining. With more students taking non-traditional paths to their careers, taking gap years and time to find what they really want, there is no single “right way” to success.

In addition, students with more experience in diversified work environments have an advantage over those who only have experience in their fields. They can be flexible and apply their learned skills in many environments.

The bottom line: whether students are paid for their efforts or not, if they work hard and have a goal in sight, there is a high chance of success.

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The intern generation