The Importance Of The Unpaid Internship

by / 3 Comments / 359 View / March 8, 2015

In today’s economy more and more you hear about unpaid internships: jobs that offer experience and hands on learning, but no monetary reward. Now the idea of the unpaid internship may sound ridiculous, I mean who wants a job where a person goes in and works for hours for free? How does that benefit anyone? But that is not the case; unpaid internships are in reality the way of the future. It is through unpaid internships that modern day economy will grow and return to a flourishing state.

Recently hundreds to thousands of people were laid off. Companies had to make major budget cuts, which eliminated positions, cut down the work force needed and destroyed the idea of the paid intern. If companies could not pay their employees and had to layoff dedicated full time laborers there was simply no way that they could continue to pay their interns. The reason why unpaid internships are so prominent now is because many positions and jobs that were once paid have become unpaid internships. Many jobs that were eliminated were in reality highly necessary to the various companies, however they were not vital, which caused them to be eliminated and turned into unpaid internships.

People assume that the company does not value the work done by someone who is unpaid. They assume that they will be forced to get coffee or change toilet paper rolls, never moving forward and never advancing. Due to this perception – the idea that unpaid interns receive only busy work or coffee orders – many people believe that unpaid internships are a waste of time. My friends and family are no different. They believe that the work that is done is not adequately valued by their employers, and most of the time they grow frustrated by putting in hours of work without getting any monetary pay off.

Currently my friends are applying to internships, to jobs and to various other working positions, and time and time again I watch them scoff at unpaid roles and ignore opportunities just because they are unpaid. My family is the same way; they hate the idea of me working for nothing but the benefit of experience and the possibility of a good recommendation letter. My friends and family both want the same thing: entry level jobs with pay, but at this current time that is simply not going to happen. We all have to face the facts unpaid internships are the way to open up doors to future jobs.

Today’s job market is more competitive than ever, so there is no point in ignoring what is readily available in favor of positions that we are ill qualified for. The majority of unpaid internships today are positions that bring work experience that will eventually aid in getting a paying steady job. In order to survive in our highly competitive job market, people need to gain as much experience as possible, whether it is paid or unpaid. Experience is the most valuable thing.

Unpaid work is not unvalued work or unappreciated work. The work that is done is vital for the company and is educational for a person’s future career. The unfortunate thing is that these essential positions are unable to be paid in our current economy. Overall, don’t scoff at the unpaid internship, or believe that your work is not being valued; your work is most likely essential and the experience you will gain and connections that you will make are more valuable than you think.

  • Jake F

    Have you considered that people scoff at unpaid internships because most people don’t have the luxury of living off their parents? This article is entirely tone deaf, and fails to even mention the economic reality of most students. Don’t second guess this for a second— it is a sign of privilege to even consider taking an unpaid internship, and by supporting them, you are cutting everyone from less wealthy backgrounds out of the job market. You’re spouting the same rhetoric about experience as the companies do, but what about class mobility? What about people who don’t have daddy’s paycheck to live off of?

    • Patrick Cowan

      I don’t think that’s what’s being written here at all. The author in no way is supporting the businesses which are supplying and forcing students to work without pay, just that most businesses can’t afford to pay every single employee a full salary. At least they’re actually still supplying the jobs and paying them in some small way, even if that involves no monetary transaction. Is it fair or right that businesses are resorting to not paying all their employees? No, but in today’s economy those same businesses sometimes have to choose between not paying money, or going under and being forced to lay off all of their employees. Here’s the thing, if some random kid between the ages of 18 and 22 walked into some business and had no work experience at all, would the company hire them? No; they would hire the person who has actually worked a steady 40 hour a week job. The author is merely saying that there is value for both the businesses who can’t afford to pay an obscene amount of money for their menial labor, and for the students who are just getting out of school and need to obtain the skills, work experience and connections necessary to make them appear more desirable to companies so that they can find work in the current job market.

      • Jake F

        The author is dismissing people who “scoff” at unpaid positions without even mentioning the biggest reason why people do this. The author is speculating why people don’t want unpaid positions, while dancing around the elephant in the room. The author fails to mention the downside of supporting these positions, while vomiting back the same line about the usefulness of experience (which no one questioned to begin with).

        I suppose the biggest problem with the piece is that the author is suggesting that people don’t want to do unpaid internships in part because they’re lazy, and that’s where mild classism turns into upper class elitism.