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How Do You Build Experience if Internships Aren’t Available?

June 28, 2010

June 28, 2010:  The New York Times ran the article “The Unpaid Intern, Legal or Not” on April 2, 2010 about the rise of unpaid internships and the crackdown from some states that unpaid internship violate minimum wage laws.  I know there are companies that take advantage of students desperately wanting an internship and sticking them with mindless work such as filing, photocopying, or as one student in the article explained “she was assigned to wipe the door handles each day to minimize the spread of swine flu.” 

But for other companies that actually do provide a learning opportunity a crackdown by the federal Labor Department may mean they stop providing the opportunity so many students seek.  I think about what my internships afforded me – the ever important experience, connections and great ways to build my resume – and I was happy to have the opportunity working for free.  [Granted one truth raised by the article is that unpaid internships aren’t always a reality for some students who can’t afford to spend a semester or summer working for free.]

According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) in 2008 50 percent of graduating seniors had held an internship which was up from 17 percent in 1992. As the article states “some experts estimate that one-fourth to one-half [of internships] are unpaid.”  

If sweeping changes take effect as the Labor Department indicates in the article I wonder how many unpaid internships will cease to exist, especially in fields where the demand is so great that students are more than willing to work for free just to get experience to get an edge? 

What are your thougths?

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