Some Stuff

I must say, FC and YC have done some great travel blogging!

Ah, a NY Times Op-ed that seems rather dear to me, at least in reminding me of my poor student days, when I figured that unpaid internships were rather… exploitative and not very enlightening because, well, they’re unpaid: “Take This Internship and Shove It.” Anya Kamenetz writes:

[….] I was an unpaid intern at a newspaper from March 2002, my senior year, until a few months after graduation. I took it for granted, as most students do, that working without pay was the best possible preparation for success; parents usually agree to subsidize their offspring’s internships on this basis. But what if we’re wrong?What if the growth of unpaid internships is bad for the labor market and for individual careers?

Let’s look at the risks to the lowly intern. First there are opportunity costs. Lost wages and living expenses are significant considerations for the two-thirds of students who need loans to get through college. Since many internships are done for credit and some even cost money for the privilege of placement overseas or on Capitol Hill, those students who must borrow to pay tuition are going further into debt for internships.

Second, though their duties range from the menial to quasi-professional, unpaid internships are not jobs, only simulations. And fake jobs are not the best preparation for real jobs.

Long hours on your feet waiting tables may not be particularly edifying, but they teach you that work is a routine of obligation, relieved by external reward, where you contribute value to a larger enterprise. Newspapers and business magazines are full of articles expressing exasperation about how the Millennial-generation employee supposedly expects work to be exciting immediately, wears flip-flops to the office and has no taste for dues-paying. However true this stereotype may be, the spread of the artificially fun internship might very well be adding fuel to it.

By the same token, internships promote overidentification with employers: I make sacrifices to work free, therefore I must love my work. A sociologist at the University of Washington, Gina Neff, who has studied the coping strategies of interns in communications industries, calls the phenomenon “performative passion.” Perhaps this emotion helps explain why educated workers in this country are less and less likely to organize, even as full-time jobs with benefits go the way of the Pinto. [….]

So an internship doesn’t teach you everything you need to know about coping in today’s working world. What effect does it have on the economy as a whole?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics does not identify interns or track the economic impact of unpaid internships. But we can do a quick-and-dirty calculation: according to Princeton Review’s “Internship Bible,” there were 100,000 internship positions in 2005. Let’s assume that out of those, 50,000 unpaid interns are employed full time for 12 weeks each summer at an average minimum wage of $5.15 an hour. That’s a nearly $124 million yearly contribution to the welfare of corporate America.

In this way, unpaid interns are like illegal immigrants. They create an oversupply of people willing to work for low wages, or in the case of interns, literally nothing. Moreover, a recent survey by Britain’s National Union of Journalists found that an influx of unpaid graduates kept wages down and patched up the gaps left by job cuts.

There may be more subtle effects as well. In an information economy, productivity is based on the best people finding the jobs best suited for their talents, and interns interfere with this cultural capitalism. They fly in the face of meritocracy — you must be rich enough to work without pay to get your foot in the door. And they enhance the power of social connections over ability to match people with desirable careers. A 2004 study of business graduates at a large mid-Atlantic university found that the completion of an internship helped people find jobs faster but didn’t increase their confidence that those jobs were a good fit.

With all this said, the intern track is not coming to an end any time soon. More and more colleges are requiring some form of internship for graduation. Still, if you must do an internship, research shows you will get more out of it if you find a paid one.

A 1998 survey of nearly 700 employers by the Institute on Education and the Economy at Columbia University’s Teachers College found: “Compared to unpaid internships, paid placements are strongest on all measures of internship quality. The quality measures are also higher for those firms who intend to hire their interns.” This shouldn’t be too surprising — getting hired and getting paid are what work, in the real world, is all about.

That’s right, Lowly Unpaid Intern. You’re no better off than an illegal immigrant. In fact, you’re either over-educated or under-educated and still not getting anything out of it. Or, in my case, my one-time unpaid internship convinced me to never do another unpaid internship again because I like seeing real money in my real account.

I managed to catch a little bit of the Today show farewell to Katie Couric. Got a bit too sappy if you asked me, seeing the old clips and feeling a bit sorry for Couric, so I turned the tv off and turned my 1010 WINS News radio back on. I prefer radio to go with my breakfast. That’s just me. Enjoy your vacation, Katie Couric, and let’s see how you do on CBS on your premiere date.

The ABC commercials promoting Charlie (sorry, Charles) Gibson as the Trusted Anchor is a bit irritating. Just a bit. No offense to Gibson, but considering the unfortunate injury of Bob Woodruff and Elizabeth Vargas’ impending maternity leave, ABC’s ultimate choosing of Gibson (when he might have had this position all to himself all along) – well, it still leaves me with a weird feeling …

0 thoughts on “Some Stuff”

  1. Interesting.. the (unpaid) intern. I think it’s a good idea and a pretty necessary one. How often had we heard way back when, and I heard it often enough to be sick of it to feel “never again” of “You need experience” line from employers finding a reason not to hire you.

    Now, I’d go with giving someone a chance if they can demonstrate: good attitude, common sense, desire/passion. The other stuff, I can teach.

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