Oh snap - my first Tumblr throwdown! Okay, better now screw this up…
I originally stated my argument with themattsmith to be that ” ‘the entitled chaff’ really are the only ones that can afford to work for free.” I got called out for overstating my case, which, ok, is fair. If you know me at all, I have a teeny-tiny habit of exaggerating. Just a little. Sometimes.
Certainly, less-entitled college students and recent grads can and do figure out a way to make unpaid internships work for them. It’s hard, and anyone who can swing it deserves a pat on the back.
BUT, how then do these internships separate the trust fund babies from the hard workers like matt? It doesn’t. Rich kids coast; poor kids struggle. According to matt, they still end up at the same place, right? The most this system does to “separate the wheat from the chaff” is to leave behind the kids who want to just start making money, which, I think, is a totally valid course of action. Whether you’re thousands of dollars in debt or lucky enough to graduate with no loans to pay back, working - for money - is not only legit, but honorable. Maybe I took some offense at the suggestion that this path (the one I took, in full disclosure) is somehow less…I don’t know, valid.
Not a throwdown, by any means. Maybe a throw… sideways?
I am not, by any stretch, insinuating that the desire to make money is the lot of the entitled. I want to make money just as much as the next guy. I just think the expectation that getting a degree is the final hurdle between you and the money is misguided at best, and dangerous at worst.
That being said- congratulations to you if you are able to find paying work in your field with little difficulty! I harbor absolutely zero ill will toward you, and am truthfully a little envious. I was perhaps a little too quick to latch on to your reblog, because of personal experience.
I understand that my perspective on unpaid internships is not universal, but I work in an industry where the practice is pretty much the standard. I saw SO MANY people in school that felt they were OWED a job, instead of putting in the time, effort, and sacrifice needed to actually GET a job. And I flew right by them bitches.
As an engineering student I am expected to have at least two, maybe three internships under my belt before I graduate. And for the work that I will be doing for those, I do expect to get paid. Where the line is drawn is that I do not have any feeling of entitlement to get any given internship, but if I go through the interview process, take two or three terms off of classes, and devote almost 6 months to being a full-time member of your team, I think that’s worth something to you as an employer. Yes, it’s worth a lot to me as a student for my education, but 6mos is a long time go with not even a part-time job on the side.
One of the internships I have been offered (and by offered, I mean, a friend of mine is an engineering manager at a company and has invited me to interview there to apply to be an intern with them) requires that every other term of the school calendar I spend working full-time with them as a member of their team. That lasts until I’ve worked three terms with them, so roughly 35 weeks of work. They would expect me to work with them to design a product, and before the end of my time with them take it from a design concept to a working prototype and then prepare it for full-scale implementation.
For those 35 weeks that I have to cover rent, food, gas, and other living expenses, there isn’t even enough time for me to even take night classes on the side. Some interns have tried, but they’d said that even a single night class is incredibly difficult. As my expenses build up, I don’t even have enough time to continue earning credits towards my major, much less a part-time job. For that time, I also cannot receive financial aid and if I lose full-time student status, weird things happen with my student loans and insurance plans.
And I’m expected to repeat that process two or three times before I get my final pat on the back at graduation. My goal isn’t to make money, but survival is one of those basic necessities that puts a real strain on my life. It’s really easy to say that I’ll have no money for several years during my time at school, but let’s not forget that translates into me selling my soul to my school, at least two companies, and so on.
I don’t think it’s really all that much to expect to get paid something as an intern, especially with the quality of work and time investments expected. It’s not as if I have a feeling of entitlement to get an internship, but when you accept me to be an intern at your company you’re telling me that you think I’m qualified for the jobs at hand and that you expect me to uphold a high standard for the work I give you.
If YOU, as the employer, expect me to give you high quality work for free when I’m making futile attempts to have a part-time job on the side and not fall behind in school then YOU need to understand that you’re really going to get crappier work because I’m hauling ass to get out of school eventually. It’s not about making boatloads of money, it’s about getting through this phase of my life and onto the next. When I’m in $90k of debt a few years from now, to some people that may read as being a great worker, but to the rest of the world that really illustrates how likely it is I’ll only ever be a disappointment to anyone who ever wants even a sliver of my time and attention, be it friends, family, a girlfriend, maybe eventually a wife, and some children. I’ll at least be a disappointment until I’m out of school — that’s guaranteed, but I can’t break free of that really until I’ve at least started to pay off a good chunk of my debts.
So unpaid internships? Yea, not worth my time. You may call me greedy, but from my perspective it’s just trying to make certain I don’t end up living in a cardboard box in an alleyway.