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Pay To Work But You Don't Get Paid?
August 20, 2009 4:00 PM   Subscribe

"Out of college money spent see no future pay no rent." Looking for a solution? Have your parents pay for an unpaid internship for you. Some students are skeptical.
posted by Xurando (89 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
So many flames, so little chance to actually stopping these morons.
posted by GuyZero at 4:06 PM on August 20, 2009 [2 favorites]


Pay to slave?
posted by Sys Rq at 4:08 PM on August 20, 2009 [2 favorites]


So, wages have finally sunk so low as to go negative.
posted by vibrotronica at 4:09 PM on August 20, 2009 [22 favorites]


So many flames, so little chance to actually stopping these morons.

"Morons"? Like it or not, the unpaid internship is quickly becoming one of the only reliable pathways into a professional career--like medical school but for journalism, TV, finance, and so on. If that's the only way for someone to get into the position they want (one which will eventually lead to a job that makes up for the costs many times over), there's nothing "moronic" about it.
posted by nasreddin at 4:18 PM on August 20, 2009


Pay decent wages. High wage earner.

Lower the wages paid. Low earner.

Pay no wages. Slave.

Pay to work. Negative earner.

Pay a lot more to work. Highly negative earner.

You have nothing left to give. Collapse into a black hole.

Capitalists everywhere have a huge orgasm.
posted by VikingSword at 4:23 PM on August 20, 2009 [9 favorites]


I think it's more like "pay to not have a hole in your resume that must be awkwardly explained away later."

A lot of young grads are terrified at having any non-school or non-work time that they're going to have to "justify" later on to a potential employer. I'm not sure why exactly this is—IMO, if the job interview is going so poorly that the interviewer has to basically ask "so...what did you do on your summer vacation," you're already in trouble—but I've heard more than one person express it.

I think if I was graduating right now, I'd probably go home and help out around the house or find some other way of contributing in lieu of rent, and spend my free time reading up on whatever industry I hoped to eventually find work in. An internship is great, but $7-8k for an unpaid one that's only a few weeks long? Better to pocket the cash and do research on your own, in almost any field I can think of. A few months of market research and self-study strikes me as a better investment than serving coffee or filing someone else's paperwork, and it sounds like some of the 'internships' in question aren't much more than that.

But then again the whole idea of "unpaid internships" always struck me as bogus anyway. There's a word for that sort of arrangement; it's called volunteer work. Would you offer to volunteer for a large corporation? No? Then don't take an unpaid internship with them, unless it comes with a guaranteed job offer at the end of it.
posted by Kadin2048 at 4:23 PM on August 20, 2009 [7 favorites]


How about people don't pick careers based on what they think sounds cool but instead on the existence of actual jobs that need to be done? The existence of unpaid internships already showed fairly clearly where the supply-demand balance lies.

And any job that has unpaid internships isn't a "professional" career. Law, medicine, engineering and other actual professional careers all offer paid placements for students. The two jobs mentioned in the articles, selling sports memorabilia or being an assistant at a modeling agency are not "professional" careers.

Chances are these people could get a job today for a significant wage as a trade apprentice. But no, that wouldn't be cool doing actual work. It's way cooler to pay for the privilege of selling old baseball cards.
posted by GuyZero at 4:23 PM on August 20, 2009 [11 favorites]


The University of Dreams advisers polished Francois’s résumé. They coached him on interviews and then helped him secure an internship at UBS, which he then converted into a job offer.

There's no way William and Mary doesn't offer those services - they're standard.

I think paying that much money for these internships is foolish. It's true internships are hard to come by but many of my friends (I go to a state school - not an ivy or anything) have been able to get high-profile ones. It requires applying to 20, 30+ opportunities and taking what you can get, but it's hardly something you need 8k to accomplish.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 4:24 PM on August 20, 2009


When I first became a ski bum I considered becoming a ski instructor. Then I discovered the only program they had available for Canadian citizens (It's a canadian resort) was to "volunteer" for 22 days to get a free pass (I calculated the hours out with the value of the pass to be far below minimum wage). The only people they were actually paying wages to were hired abroad (New Zealand, Australia, etc.) I could have gotten an actual pay job, but only through my parents' connections. Then I thought to myself, do I really want to work for these assholes? If they were pulling this now, what else would they pull when I was working for them?

Just a thought.
posted by Pseudology at 4:24 PM on August 20, 2009 [7 favorites]



How about people don't pick careers based on what they think sounds cool but instead on the existence of actual jobs that need to be done? The existence of unpaid internships already showed fairly clearly where the supply-demand balance lies.


do recent grads ever get jobs in their chosen area of interest, besides engineers and people with applicable skills?

I am willing to bet, more often than not, that any working experience is roughly comparable to most unpaid internships. although, these people who are paying 8k for theirs were not exactly in danger of falling off the map anyway
posted by Think_Long at 4:32 PM on August 20, 2009


Having a few months gap on your resume DURING A MAJOR RECESSION is not that hard to explain.

Another idea is AmeriCorps.
posted by DU at 4:37 PM on August 20, 2009 [4 favorites]


How about people don't pick careers based on what they think sounds cool but instead on the existence of actual jobs that need to be done?

Boy, you're pretty big on telling people how to live their lives, aren't you?

Credential inflation is just the reality nowadays. My generation was told repeatedly that the only way to be anything in life was to go to college. We did, in unprecedented numbers. Now there's an oversupply of college students and college graduates with the pretty reasonable expectation of making as much as their parents did. But the jobs are not coming. Even law-school grads have it tough.

Traditional middle-class careers in once-prosperous fields can now be had only by knowing the right person and knowing how to network. This is, in many ways, a return to the prewar status quo--and the unpaid internship approximates many of the old devices for class advancement, like clerkships with an influential lawyer, working for pennies as an assistant in a shop, or becoming a secretary for a rising politician. It's just that it happens to be a bit more meritocratic. I don't like the inflationary climate either, but I can certainly understand the sacrifices people are making.
posted by nasreddin at 4:37 PM on August 20, 2009 [18 favorites]


But then again the whole idea of "unpaid internships" always struck me as bogus anyway. There's a word for that sort of arrangement; it's called volunteer work. Would you offer to volunteer for a large corporation? No? Then don't take an unpaid internship with them, unless it comes with a guaranteed job offer at the end of it.

Unpaid internships aren't limited to Big Companies. Some smaller local governments, strapped for cash, are now taking unpaid interns where they used to pay minimum wage or a bit more (but I doubt you could ever pay to be an intern with local gov't - other levels, those are called "contributions").

Auctions for an internship with well-regarded non-profits is an interesting idea: the student can get great exposure to that field, and the group (who are probably feeling a pinch from tough financial times) get money to run.

If it's a big business, it's shady. If not, depends.
posted by filthy light thief at 4:38 PM on August 20, 2009


How long before people have to start paying for interviews?
posted by The Card Cheat at 4:39 PM on August 20, 2009 [7 favorites]


My unpaid internship started the day after one of my would-be co-workers suddenly quit. That luck and a little bit of preparation on my part landed me an offer as soon as my internship was up.

If I knew how to get in touch with the dude who quit, I'd send him Christmas cards every year.
posted by infinitewindow at 4:41 PM on August 20, 2009


This is worse the the apprentice system, isn't it? I mean, as an apprentice, you generally have the knowledge that at the end of it you'll be offered a job, and in the meantime you learn the skills you'll need to do that job.

Most internships I've had an encounter with were "copy person" positions. where the intern was looked upon as a source of free labor to get the menial jobs done, which mostly had nothing to do with their interest or the business's specialty.
posted by maxwelton at 4:43 PM on August 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


Unpaid internships aren't limited to Big Companies. Some smaller local governments, strapped for cash, are now taking unpaid interns where they used to pay minimum wage or a bit more (but I doubt you could ever pay to be an intern with local gov't - other levels, those are called "contributions").

My local government agency had a number of paid interns ask to stay on as unpaid when the internship program was canned because of budget cuts. The glorious workers unions all stood up and said no - they didn't want people in the company working for free. All that free labor to compete with union labor apparently didn't look good to them.
posted by SirOmega at 4:45 PM on August 20, 2009


This is worse the the apprentice system, isn't it? I mean, as an apprentice, you generally have the knowledge that at the end of it you'll be offered a job, and in the meantime you learn the skills you'll need to do that job.

Well, not necessarily. One of the reasons the guild system collapsed, as far as I know, is that apprentice and even journeyman status stopped being a guarantee of future advancement, which created a kind of permanent underclass of journeymen. That's pretty much where we are now.
posted by nasreddin at 4:47 PM on August 20, 2009 [6 favorites]


... Academia has been doing this for years, its called graduate school. -laughs-

Seriously this is... NOT a good trend at all to see.
posted by strixus at 4:54 PM on August 20, 2009 [3 favorites]



"Morons"? Like it or not, the unpaid internship is quickly becoming one of the only reliable pathways into a professional career--like medical school but for journalism, TV, finance, and so on. If that's the only way for someone to get into the position they want (one which will eventually lead to a job that makes up for the costs many times over), there's nothing "moronic" about it.


It is moronic that the whole system supposes that hordes of people should expect to, and compete for, the privilege of working for free. Not for low wages, for nothing. It means you'll only have people who have outside money going into these pathways. It enforces the hold of the already wealthy and resists personal economic progress.

It is the opposite of upward mobility.
posted by The Whelk at 4:57 PM on August 20, 2009 [39 favorites]


The whole intern thing is crazy. Especially in this economy. I just hired an intern for my section of the development department at a well-known NGO. I had 150 resumes for a 20 hour per week, three month, very modestly paid internship. Other more glamorous departments had 600. And a not insignificant number of candidates were professionals (MBAs, PhDs, and an MD) with years of experience. I was primarily weeding out people who were over qualified rather than under qualified.

Although I will say this, I am shocked by how ill-equipped some of these recent grads are to enter the work force, even the ones from decent schools. I immediately canned any resume that was over two pages... and many were. Some were 4-5 pages. For a 22 year old with a BA? The hell. And most of it was just crap padding stuff. I don't need to know you were a babysitter, or every wait job you ever had. And some of the cover letters where just atrocious. Get off my lawn.
posted by kimdog at 5:00 PM on August 20, 2009 [4 favorites]


It is moronic that the whole system supposes that hordes of people should expect to, and compete for, the privilege of working for free. Not for low wages, for nothing. It means you'll only have people who have outside money going into these pathways. It enforces the hold of the already wealthy and resists personal economic progress.

The system is moronic, sure. (Although I guess I can't imagine any other way it could happen, given that the supply of professional jobs is limited and the demand is constantly growing.) But are the students themselves morons? Hardly. They're doing the economically rational thing.
posted by nasreddin at 5:00 PM on August 20, 2009 [2 favorites]


Traditional middle-class careers in once-prosperous fields can now be had only by knowing the right person and knowing how to network. This is, in many ways, a return to the prewar status quo--and the unpaid internship approximates many of the old devices for class advancement, like clerkships with an influential lawyer, working for pennies as an assistant in a shop, or becoming a secretary for a rising politician. It's just that it happens to be a bit more meritocratic. I don't like the inflationary climate either, but I can certainly understand the sacrifices people are making.

I don't like the "re-imagining" of the Gilded Age. It's not nearly as pretty as the previous version and has all these compatibility errors.
posted by The Whelk at 5:00 PM on August 20, 2009 [3 favorites]


Well no one is saying the kids are stupid, it's the whole expectation that they should act that way is stupid.
posted by The Whelk at 5:02 PM on August 20, 2009


Well no one is saying the kids are stupid, it's the whole expectation that they should act that way is stupid.

That's not how I read GuyZero's first comment.
posted by nasreddin at 5:03 PM on August 20, 2009


I've had unpaid interns. There is a responsibility in that case to spend a fair amount of time explaining things and providing an element of teaching, it's just basic fair play.

I still laugh about the time I wanted to take a day off, and the unpaid intern chewed me out about how unfair that was, so I had to go ahead and work that day with the unpaid intern.
posted by StickyCarpet at 5:07 PM on August 20, 2009


I've had unpaid interns. There is a responsibility in that case to spend a fair amount of time explaining things and providing an element of teaching, it's just basic fair play.

That seems more reasonable -- it's like free education. I'm certainly not convinced that all unpaid internships work this way (even in cases where they're supposed to, not all the employers will be as conscientious).
posted by wildcrdj at 5:14 PM on August 20, 2009


It's just people taking advantage of others' fear and uncertainty. The government does it, why can't private industry? The alternative is to chill out, do something cool, and have a good story for your "real" employer when you get one.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 5:16 PM on August 20, 2009


paying for an internship is a crap scam... there, did I settle that..

As an employer, I could only do this if I had no ethics at all...

As a parent (of two kids who graduated this year), I would look at them and say "you're fucking crazy, right?!!!!!????"

A grad with any skills and personality could easily walk into a volunteer/intern position (unpaid)....

And, as DU said upstream Americorps is an excellent opportunity... my youngest is leaving on Sunday for Seattle for a year under this program (an English degree from one of the best private universities in the country ain't really worth squat right now)... the experience will be good for her...
posted by HuronBob at 5:31 PM on August 20, 2009


That's not how I read GuyZero's first comment.

I don't think there's any requirement that I offer unconditional approval of everyone and every decision people make. I'm sure there are people out there you consider morons nasreddin. I can probably find one sitting in my chair during certain hours of the day.

I'm willing to set aside the epithets and say that I disagree that these people are doing the economically rational thing. The economical rational thing is to find a job that offers a paycheque. There are numerous other jobs that people could pursue that offer both long-term potential and immediate employment. (long-term potential is important as I'm not suggesting everyone just go out and get a job flipping burger or something else that offers nothing better than minimum wage in perpetuity).

The specific jobs mentioned are, I repeat, selling sports memorabilia and working as a modeling agency assistant. These people have turned their backs on other fields where students are getting paid jobs right this minute. And, on a purely personal note, these sound like dumb jobs to me. I'm not telling anyone what to do, but as an Internet Crank I have every right to say I think they're just dumb jobs. Maybe that's their dream. But I'm with Mike Rowe: Don't follow your passion. Watch where everyone else is going and go the other way.
posted by GuyZero at 5:34 PM on August 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


If you're paying for the internship, one would hope you could walk in and say "and here is what I expect to know by the end of my term there." Doesn't really sound like that's what is happening - "Officials at the company say they are able to wrangle hard-to-get internships for their clients because they have developed extensive working relationships with a variety of employers." So where is the intern's avenue of redress? A refund if the internship doesn't meet the training goals? Who advocates for the intern who has paid a large fee to be there?

Some of the firms I worked at used interns and the rules on ensuring training happened were pretty strict, the school stepped in if they felt the company was just using the student to provide a cheap receptionist. The result was that an internship/work-placement through that school was actually worth something on a resume.

I can't condemn paying for placement outright, especially if the cost is inclusive of room & board plus activities. Life is tough for graduates and seems to get tougher everyday. What does concern me is the lop-sided aspect of it; the students pay and might only learn their first lesson in big-money employment scams.
posted by Salmonberry at 5:35 PM on August 20, 2009


The irony is that our country's high unemployment would go away if we weren't all so damned content with only two weeks of annual vacation. If everyone decided to insist on two months of vacation, there would be more than enough work to go around.
posted by mullingitover at 5:37 PM on August 20, 2009 [18 favorites]


It enforces the hold of the already wealthy and resists personal economic progress.

It is the opposite of upward mobility.


Exactly. When I moved to New York a few years ago with dreams of becoming a journalist, I already had a competitive resume--editor of a college magazine, summer intern at a professional magazine in DC, tons of clips, high GPA from a great state school, blah blah blah--but it soon became apparent that nearly every magazine demands that you sport an internship at an NYC publication on your resume.

Fair enough! Oh, except the staff needs you to work 40+ hours a week, dress like you're in the last 20 minutes of Devil Wears Prada, have the time to stay late in the office the week before publication, and always, always let your superiors know how grateful you are for the privilege to do their Googling and fact-checking. All of this, of course, for no money.

My experience with unpaid internships nearly turned me into a frothing-at-the-mouth Marxist. In order to keep a lofty internship at a high-profile cultural magazine, I: worked countless odd jobs to subsidize my internships, lived in a roach-infested ghetto, exclusively ate noodles and beans, ran on 3-4 hours of sleep a night, forfeited social time to "grab drinks" with encouraging staff editors because I had another job to go, could never afford to look trendy enough for a glamorous magazine job because I didn't shop at boutiques, and competed with pampered graduates whose parents paid their rent and sent them checks for clothes and food. The entire system of unpaid internships favors kids from economic backgrounds solvent enough to pay for one child to thrive in New York City.

The hilarious irony of it all happened, not coincidentally, on my last day of work: At the end of the internship, after all us interns--subsidized and roach-infested alike--had logged months of our lives working for free, the magazine quietly filled an editorial assistant position (that we never knew was available) with a recent Harvard graduate who was a friend-of-a-friend-of-a-friend of the staff. She had majored in psychology.

Now that people are paying for this experience, we'll have an even wealthier, entitled workforce. Welcome to the future of journalism!
posted by zoomorphic at 5:40 PM on August 20, 2009 [66 favorites]


The irony is that our country's high unemployment would go away if we weren't all so damned content with only two weeks of annual vacation. If everyone decided to insist on two months of vacation, there would be more than enough work to go around.
Was just reading an article exploding various of the myths about the economic crisis in the UK in the 1970s, including the Three-Day Week:
Even during what Beckett calls ‘sudden calamity’ – the gravest economic crisis since the Second World War – the country by recent swine-flu standards stayed remarkably calm. There were some alarms and amusing excursions: Patrick Jenkin, the energy minister, advised people to save electricity by cleaning their teeth in the dark (and then newspapers printed pictures of Jenkin’s own house ablaze with light). But the winter was mild and people coped. Output per labour hour actually increased. Workers worked harder over shorter weeks and then went home to trim the wicks of antique oil lamps and pay more attention to their children and gardens. The three television channels closed down early at 10.30 p.m., streetlights were dimmed, offices cooled their heating to 65ºF; but the world did not collapse. Trade at fishing-tackle shops and golf courses boomed. The emergency, in Beckett’s words, became ‘a sort of extended national holiday’.
Make it an all-year round vacation!
On topic, agree with The Whelk that standardising a period of unpaid internship as means of access to certain professions can only be anti-meritocratic.
posted by Abiezer at 5:47 PM on August 20, 2009 [3 favorites]


I think that this is a move away from meritocracy and toward class-based exclusion. It's the next reasonable extension of the way that the rise of internships itself limits entry to people who can afford to work for free.

On preview: wow, that's, what, three or four people that said that better than I did?
posted by box at 5:51 PM on August 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


it used to be that paying dues meant hard work & sweat equity. now paying dues is ... paying dues.
posted by msconduct at 5:52 PM on August 20, 2009 [2 favorites]


GuyZero Chances are these people could get a job today for a significant wage as a trade apprentice.

Where? In NYC the starting salary for an Ironworker apprentice is $28 an hour + medical benefits, pension contributions, et cetera. Thing is, two of the three Unions have not accepted applications for more than 18 months and are not scheduled to until March 2010. And in this economy? If you do not have experience welding you have zero chance of being accepted into the program.

The Carpenters Union is not accepting applications and it is the same with almost all of the other trades.
posted by mlis at 5:52 PM on August 20, 2009 [5 favorites]


I just got passed up for an unpaid internship at the SLC mayor's office where I was hoping to work in their Office of Diversity and Human Rights. I specifically arranged my debt financing so I wouldn't require income for my first year of school and this opportunity would have been a great fit. I haven't been able to speak with them about being passed up, yet, so I don't know why they didn't want me. I've got seventeen years of work experience which includes supervisory and managerial positions and they said specifically that my experience was needed for many of their upcoming projects so who knows. Maybe it was something in my background check, though the only thing I can imagine is my bad credit rating. (I don't know if they would have found that my address was attached to two raids, one by the SLC gang unit and one by the US Marshals, though neither were for me. (Am I saying too much?))

The fact that I didn't get it doesn't bug me, though. Looking over my class/homework schedule, I had to really jam it in to fit just 15 hours a week, and I'd have to give up all my other volunteer work which I actually enjoy. Now that I won't have to deal with it, my first semester should be rather breezy, and I'll be able to focus on school exclusively, which is good since I want to get in the honors program next semester. But it would've been nice to have that listed in my experience for future scholarship applications and such, not to mention the valuable service to which I'd be contributing.

It does seem odd that they setup this kind of "exclusive volunteer" position, and if I didn't get it because someone paid the right people, that would suck on principle alone, but what am I gonna do? I've got plenty of other things to worry about and if all I'm losing is a résumé listing and a whole lot of unpaid stress, then no big deal. And I am just a freshman, after all.
posted by effwerd at 5:53 PM on August 20, 2009


I'm pretty sure most of these kids who are being sent to private "how to market yourself" programs are receiving essentially the same support I'm being provided by Employment Canada... for free.

The US has a bizarre idea of how to support its citizens to be productive, happy members of society. Maybe that's part of the problem...
posted by five fresh fish at 5:57 PM on August 20, 2009 [3 favorites]


While paying for the privilege of an unpaid internship seems crazy to me, I do think unpaid internships can be really worthwhile.

The past two summers I've had unpaid internships at non-profit theater companies. I learned an incredible amount and met some very cool people. The happy irony, I realized, is that working for places who couldn't afford to pay me meant I got to do things they couldn't afford to pay someone else to do. Maybe I was just lucky, but I was respected (and really appreciated!) as a member of the staff.

As others have said, I feel it's more of a gray area with big corporations who could afford to pay an intern... but I don't regret my unpaid work for non-profits in the least.
posted by Zephyrial at 5:58 PM on August 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


I bet there is a strong correlation between folks who "have great health insurance, we don't need change" and those who think "paying for an internship sounds like a reasonable thing to do."
posted by maxwelton at 6:02 PM on August 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


It would be really funny to go deep into credit card debt trying to do an unpaid internship, then not get the job cause they didn't like your credit report.

No, not funny. What's the word? ... Probable
posted by heathkit at 6:10 PM on August 20, 2009 [2 favorites]


Of course, teaching students have had to pay for an "internship" for years, which also known as "student teaching", in order to graduate.
posted by greatalleycat at 6:12 PM on August 20, 2009


I bet there is a strong correlation between folks who "have great health insurance, we don't need change" and those who think "paying for an internship sounds like a reasonable thing to do."

Right, because all those young urban aspiring journalists are such a conservative group.
posted by nasreddin at 6:16 PM on August 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


My generation was told repeatedly that the only way to be anything in life was to go to college.

Maybe if your generation opened their fucking history books to the not-so-recent past you'd know that it's been this way for nearly two decades. Your generation is not the first to fall for this scam. The sad thing isn't just that you think you're the first, but that you didn't learn shit from the previous generation's mistakes and went right on ahead and repeated them (accumulating college debt to get a job to pay off all that college debt).

Fucking kids: everything old is new again, including all the stupid shit.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 6:19 PM on August 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


Maybe if your generation opened their fucking history books to the not-so-recent past you'd know that it's been this way for nearly two decades. Your generation is not the first to fall for this scam. The sad thing isn't just that you think you're the first, but that you didn't learn shit from the previous generation's mistakes and went right on ahead and repeated them (accumulating college debt to get a job to pay off all that college debt).

Yeah, but we're still worse off. Our debt load is exponentially greater, the market value of our degrees is much less, and the competition for entry-level jobs is more fierce. We don't really have a viable alternative. (OK, more of us should have gone to state schools as opposed to private schools. But even there the tuition and debt load has grown enormously.)
posted by nasreddin at 6:25 PM on August 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


Of course, teaching students have had to pay for an "internship" for years, which also known as "student teaching", in order to graduate.

Yes, and how ever is this is comparable to purchasing one's internship?
posted by five fresh fish at 6:31 PM on August 20, 2009


Unpaid internships were recently a pretty big media focus in the UK:

"New inquiry into exploitation of the work-for-free interns"
posted by knapah at 6:37 PM on August 20, 2009


I'm a journalism major going into my senior year this September, looking for internships.

...

I want to curl up into a ball for the next 10 years.
posted by CitrusFreak12 at 6:44 PM on August 20, 2009


Yes, and how ever is this is comparable to purchasing one's internship?
True, student teachers do get placements, but the guarantee of getting a job after graduation is still shaky (unless you live in an area that was "hot" like Vegas, AZ, Carolinas, etc)
But student teaching does teach students you have to pay for everything since you'll probably end up in a district that provides you nothing. At least they get 2 months off every year, unless they are stuck taking required masters degree courses by the state.

Point: While purchasing internships goes too far, teachers have it worse because they always have to pay.
posted by greatalleycat at 6:48 PM on August 20, 2009


How long before people have to start paying for interviews?

One restaurant company in Portland wants $4.50 to look at your resume.
posted by vespabelle at 6:50 PM on August 20, 2009


Andrew Topel’s parents paid $8,000 this year to a service that helped their son, a junior at the University of Tampa, get a summer job as an assistant at Ford Models

Parents, you have been pwned.
posted by nicwolff at 7:41 PM on August 20, 2009 [3 favorites]


William & Mary grad here. I think their career services office is actually pretty decent. They helped me polish my resume on several occasions. They also offer sessions on resume and cover letter writing, interviewing, dressing for success, making the most of a career fair, how to hunt for jobs in various sectors - basically everything you can imagine. W&M has a good business school, and my problem with the career fairs that were held on campus was that there were too MANY business oriented jobs, and not a lot in other sectors (CIA and Peace Corps were two of the very few non-business/finance oriented employers that ever attended, as I recall). So yeah, that kid was kind of an idiot.

Unpaid internships are bad enough. I don't think kids are stupid to take them - my field (politics) relies heavily on unpaid interns, and I think it really is a good learning experience and resume/connections builder, but I think the whole system is spectacularly unfair to kids who can't afford to do it. Paying for an internship, though, is really beyond the pale.
posted by naoko at 7:42 PM on August 20, 2009


With Americorps you get a pretty teeny tiny living allowance, but it's something. Considering how low it is, it's amazing how competitive the spots are. Let's complete to live in NYC for 10,000 a year! LOLWORLD. I briefly lived in a dorm with a bunch of NYC unpaid interns who were easily losing $2000 a month. In Americorps you certainly don't make anything, but it's very possible to live on the allowance.

It's a testament to how many unpaid internships are out there...I'm on a several agriculture mailing lists and everyone from non-profits to farms post them, but at least the farms provide housing and food.
posted by melissam at 7:44 PM on August 20, 2009


HuronBob: paying for an internship is a crap scam...

This. I've worked an unpaid internship in DC. Four of them. While going to school. On student loans, yes, but loans that I will eventually repay. I did it by living in the affordable part of town, by eating reasonable (but not awful) food, by sacrificing a certain amount of social life to get work done, by applying for as many internships I could and learning from my mistakes, by building a social network based on the work I did, and by gradually ascending to organizations that were closer and closer to what I wanted to do.

Consequence: I learned a lot, about my work style, about the kinds of organizations I want to work for, about how to get things done in my field. And I lined up a job, not from any of the organizations I worked for, but based on my experience there.

Sooner or later, intern supervisors are gonna have to learn they're a lot better off picking for talent than shine on a resume. At some point, my generation needs to wake up and care more about being good than looking good and have the pride in itself to make the sacrifices in order to do it ourselves.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 8:01 PM on August 20, 2009


Oh no. Am I going to have to cancel my Harper's subscription?
posted by Flashman at 8:26 PM on August 20, 2009


In finance, at least, unpaid internships are still relatively uncommon. There are always a few students at the end of the recruiting season who don't manage to get a paid internship and offer to work for free, but the norm is to be paid at a decent rate (usually close to the starting base salary).

Anecdotally, at my last job, when interns were being hired, their requested pay was never an issue (and this was during the dark months of early '09). In fact, offering to work for free generally got their resumes thrown away - if you value your own abilities at nothing, why should you be hired at all?
posted by pravit at 8:33 PM on August 20, 2009


I am increasingly terrified of graduation.
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:57 PM on August 20, 2009


> I am increasingly terrified of graduation.

Well, no matter what else happens, you will at least be finished with library school.
posted by The Card Cheat at 9:10 PM on August 20, 2009


The majority of internships I saw in school were unpaid. The unspoken deal was that you answered their phones, made their copies, fetched their coffees, and they'll let you do something cool once in a while. Any field with the "cool factor" (ie fashion, music, publishing, etc) will have a glut of unpaid internships with no guarantee of future employment.

My 2nd internship in college was with a medium sized record label where much of the work, save for about 7-8 paid staffers, were all done by unpaid interns. None of them were doing it for college credit, just working for free until a position hopefully opened up. My internship supervisor worked for free for over nine months just to get a crappy paying job in the mailroom. The label VPs cousin was able to get that same crappy mailroom job with no slave time at all. So it went.
posted by dr_dank at 9:19 PM on August 20, 2009


At some point, my generation needs to wake up and care more about being good than looking good and have the pride in itself to make the sacrifices in order to do it ourselves.

It's hard to say we need to wake up while employers continue the tradition of hiring people through two pages of puffed up drivel with every ridiculous accomplishment you have ever made dressed up and overemphasized with weasel language and buzz words.

Instead of a resume I'd rather send through a single page listing my skills and a small portfolio of customer and supervisory commendations and let employers see my awesomeness at being a driven, customer focused employee that they most likely really, really want but in the world of "more than 2 pages is too much" that's kind of impractical.

If I'm feeling creative one day I might try to shoehorn a single page resume + commendations into a two page flashy resume. Something Appleish in its minimalism maybe? Any hiring managers want to comment?
posted by Talez at 9:29 PM on August 20, 2009


Academia has been doing this for years, its called graduate school
To be fair, you usually get paid a stipend to live on when you go to graduate school.

I have an indignant rant about unpaid internships that I'll get to in a moment, but the truth is that when I was an undergrad, I wanted to work with a professor on a project that would lead to my thesis, and he asked me to work about 10 hours a week for free for a semester: no pay, no credit. Though the work I did got rolled into my thesis the following semester. So I have sort of "been there" and did kinda sorta act as a dupe for the Unpaid Internship Industrial Complex but it was in the context of school and more like taking an extra class rather than being asked to show up to an office for 40 hours a week and work for free.

My impression is that these unpaid internships are for "glamour jobs" that everyone dreams of working at. People want to work in the fashion industry, music, the arts, or journalism, because those jobs are sexy. There are many more people who want to work in these fields than the field can support. Heck, there are probably a ton more highly talented people who want to work in these industries than the industry can support, so the industries set up more and more hoops to jump through to weed out aspirants. I can't really criticize people for choosing to go this route: when you're young you think you're uniquely talented and going to shoot to the top of your field. If we didn't think that, we'd never take the leaps of faith we do early on.

But here's the thing: we grow up being told that the important things are hard work and focus, and that hard work will be rewarded. There are a bunch of fields that don't reward talent and hard work, but rather depend on a lot of other factors. If you believe in the meritocracy, find the fields that reward merit and avoid those "glamour jobs" that reward charm, connections, and a willingness to be abused for no pay. It's the job of universities to line people up with work internships that at least provide a stipend to live on or function more as learning experiences in the context of school.

Pseudology understands the dynamic the best: do you really want to work for the type of organization that treats people like crap? They're not going to turn around and suddenly become a nurturing, supportive, well-paying work environment because your unpaid crappy internship has evolved into a paid staff position. The way they treat you as an intern is going to be quite similar to the way the entire organization functions.
posted by deanc at 9:35 PM on August 20, 2009 [8 favorites]


l33tpolicywonk - "my generation needs to wake up and care more about being good than looking good"

And therein lies the rub; with so many applicants to so few positions, how is the entity hiring* going to know that you're actually good unless you look good?

Letters of reference might be a good way, but it takes a lot of time to check on every applicants reference(s).

*much less the very possibly harried lower-position employee who's tasked with filtering resumes**

**ugh, recently we wanted to extend the contract on a current post-doc; university rules demand that we do a national job search for the same job. We got a ton of applicants. We had to find a reason to reject each and every one of them. Damned if we all didn't die a little bit.

/curls up under desk for a little bit

posted by porpoise at 9:38 PM on August 20, 2009


Out of four internships (one high school, one college, two graduate school) that I have had, two were paid. Not coincidentally, they were both the ones best tailored to my interests and where I was given real responsibilities and interesting projects.

One of the unpaid ones, in college, was as a marketing intern at a Very Big NYC Publisher working side by side with the Marketing Director. I had zero experience, and I didn't have the connections to finagle it. I did, however, have the good luck to be in the right place at the right time (oh, and I did it in Spain--this was also a big help because I wasn't competing with the crazy NYC types). I sure as hell didn't PAY for the privilege.

When I got on a plane that spring to go back to the US, two East Coast preppy type guys (hello, Syracuse University) were behind me. One guy asked the other, 'So where you working this summer?' The other guy goes, 'Oh, my dad got me an internship at Goldman Sachs. You?' 'My dad got me Solomon Smith Barney.' It was at that point that I was very grateful to be going back to the West Coast. We may do it the same way here, but it's not quite so *blatant.*
posted by librarylis at 10:20 PM on August 20, 2009 [2 favorites]


Also, on reflection, I have been outrage-trolled by the NY Times again on this one. If it's not unemployed hipsters getting their parents to pay for them to live in Williamsburg, it's paying for internships. While I still think this is ridiculous, it's probably just a drop in the bucket.
posted by GuyZero at 10:37 PM on August 20, 2009 [2 favorites]


How long before people have to start paying for interviews?

Like colleges where you pay to apply?
posted by zippy at 11:09 PM on August 20, 2009


Since the value of a university degree debate came up I may as well mention that I quit university because I discovered my degree would be about just as valueless if I dropped out. Why waste 4 winters of skiing when I could just waste 2.

As for getting credit for realizing that I'd be treated like crap by the company that was asking me to volunteer for 22 days to get a pass, don't give me so much credit deanc. I had more information to base my decision on. I grew up in Whistler. I've heard the horror stories from everyone. My brother and cousin and their friends all would come home and complain about how the mountain screwed up again. I'm not sure exactly how long they've had this volunteer for a pass program in place but it certainly isn't the first time they've acted like corporate douchebags and it definately won't be the last either.
posted by Pseudology at 11:53 PM on August 20, 2009


My college _required_ every student to take an unpaid internship, and to pay tuition cost for the privilege. I had to work a paid unofficial internship while I was doing my school internship, it was the only way I could pay for it.
posted by skintension at 1:50 AM on August 21, 2009


What I'm struck by is the weeding for obviously overqualified applicants who have decided on a career change and not just a lateral move but to start at the bottom in another field. On the one hand you have the piece of wisdom that goes "you won't know what you want to do as an 18 year old kid, just make a leap of faith and do some exploration" and on the other hand it seems like unless your career trajectory is a bright single minded trail lit up since high school in the direction of your preferred slave owner you'll be rejected as over qualified and not committed enough.
posted by doobiedoo at 2:12 AM on August 21, 2009 [3 favorites]


It seems to me that market forces can explain this worrying trend. These are, this recession is kicking young people (just like the last one, just like everyone). And that people believe that the opportunity cost of being unemployed (especially if you have never been employed) is higher than simply the wage you would be making if you were employed. And in some industries (fashion, journalism, etc.) they are perceived to be even higher; maybe people think that in these industries if you don't start young, you don't start.

For me this is just the start of a very long drawn out period of financial stagnation which could last up until the Baby Boomer generation has passed out of the work place. BBs are working longer and longer to pay for their retirement - which they can because their vast experience is valuable. But this can create a bottleneck in companies that didn't exist before, as such advancement comes easily only to those younger people who have very strong relative bargaining positions ( i.e. the rich, the well connected, the truly brilliant and those in sectors where the baby boomer's experience is less telling; IT, Internet, the physical aspects of construction, for example.)
posted by munchbunch at 2:45 AM on August 21, 2009


More than simply exploiting locals, University of Dreams is shipping in students illegally from abroad to work in these "internships".
posted by Pollomacho at 5:22 AM on August 21, 2009


It's funny that parents work for years in jobs they don't like very much until they are financially succesful enough that they can financially support their kids who really want to be writers/filmmakers/journalists/[insert interesting yet badly paid job]. And then those kids will have their own kids, who grow up being poor and hating it, and who will want nothing more than to go into banking and own a Ferrari.

I am doing an unpaid internship now. It's excellent, great fun, the staff don't treat me like shit (we do almost exactly the same tasks day to day - I'm not their coffee fetcher), and it is very likely to lead to an interesting and stable, if high pressured and not particularly well paid, job. Problem is, the internship itself isn't paid. They don't even offer lunch or a travelcard to get to work. And one way of looking at it is that my parents (who I live with and live off) are basically paying my salary for my employer. It's kind of one step removed from actively handing over a cheque to a middleman, but it is in the same ball park.

I don't mind the principle of working for free to break into a profession. In a field that is very competitive, that everyone wants to do, how else do I demonstrate that I am committed to doing this more than all the other grads?

What bothers me is the number of much more intelligent, capable people who could have done my placement, but who made the mistake of not being born well off.
posted by marmaduke_yaverland at 5:40 AM on August 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


Speaking as someone who has an unpaid intern herself this summer (through my industry association's 'pathways into careers in...' program -- she gets school credit), I wish I could pay her, of course. But my field barely pays me enough as it is.

If anything, she's gotten a valuable education in watching how people in our business scramble to pay the bills, how we have to take on work we don't want to do accordingly, you name it. And ours is a strange career path, there aren't a whole lot of professional fiber arts people who do it full time, so the introductions made while working for me alone are worth her time if she decides to stick with it.

(She might not, after seeing how many hours I have to devote per week to just staying afloat!)
posted by bitter-girl.com at 6:14 AM on August 21, 2009


(I should add, too, that my unpaid internship with the State Department in college cost me a hell of a lot more to pull off in terms of living expenses -- Munich is not cheap!)
posted by bitter-girl.com at 6:16 AM on August 21, 2009


I think a much better use of $8000 would be to subsidize the kid's walkabout in Europe.

For $8000 you could send your kid to Europe for every summer vacation through college!

Bucket shop airfare, Eurail pass and a guide of youth hostels. As an employer, I'd MUCH rather hire a kid who had the time to meet new people, see new places and catch scabies from youth hostel bedding, than some privilaged schmuck who is so useless that he/she couldn't even get hired for FREE!!!

Or. I'd rather hire someone who volunteered during the summer. Here is a short list of volunteer work I did during my summer vacations:

1. YMCA pre-school. (I don't have kids, it accomplished TWO things!)

2. Vacation coverage for secretary at my Dad's non-profit.

3. Candy-striper at the hostpital. (I was the only one who could deal with the Emergency Room gore, so I got to hang out and help with all kinds of cool stuff.)

4. Office work for NARAL (because I was activist like that.)

5. Cruising the barrio to register folks to vote (because I was activist like that.)

Now seriously, don't I sound like a better bet than some shmoe who had to have mommy and daddy buy his/her way into a bullshit internship?

And honestly, a BA, is the equivalent of a high school diploma and prepares you for absolutely nothing. You SHOULD be getting some bullshit entry-level job.

I never expected anything less when I graduated. I didn't think that I had done something so amazing that the business world should bow down and thank me with a big salary and a corner office. It never even occured to me.

Where did this sense of entitlement come from? OMG, poor Sally had to make $10 in a retail job! What's the world coming to?

Makes me want to slap a bitch.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:27 AM on August 21, 2009 [10 favorites]


There seems like a lot of undue hand-wringing here.

If you believe in the meritocracy, find the fields that reward merit and avoid those "glamour jobs" that reward charm, connections, and a willingness to be abused for no pay.

This pretty much sums it up.

This story may help make more palpable the imbalances of labor markets, the decreasing value of an undergraduate education (at least in terms of wage compensation), and the wider ubiquety of hiring decisions being based on who you know instead of who you are.

However, I assure you, the larger dynamics pushing this have much greater consequences still to come and have been in motion much longer.
posted by Reasonably Everything Happens at 6:32 AM on August 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


After having seen the negative work that undergrad assistants generate in lab, I am understanding of this idea.

Of course interns are used for pointless menial tasks and not relevant training. If a task is important and relevant, I'm going to pay to make sure that I have someone who can do it right. In the above example, the only way an undergrad gets to do something vaguely important is if I am 100% willing to do it over or in parallel. Basically, the menial tasks are their way of paying for all the time I spend explaining things and checking their work.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 6:33 AM on August 21, 2009


It would be really funny to go deep into credit card debt trying to do an unpaid internship, then not get the job cause they didn't like your credit report.

No, not funny. What's the word? ... Probable
posted by heathkit at 7:10 PM on August 20




Woah. They check your credit report? Wtf?
posted by chugg at 8:24 AM on August 21, 2009


Twenty-something recent grads have been fighting an uphill battle to get a job (especially the fashionable ones in desirable areas) for as long as I can remember. The only folks I ever knew who were able to spend summers working in a cubicle at Conde-Nast, or some such, had significant parental support, a pony and a monthly budget that allowed for regular shopping trips at Prada.

The scary thing right now is that I know plenty of people well into their thirties (with lengthy resumes, debt loads and no trust funds) who are so desperate for work in this economy that they'll take an unpaid (or barely paid) internship just to have work and the vague hope that they might get hired. And this, by the way, is in North Carolina, not Manhattan.
posted by thivaia at 8:31 AM on August 21, 2009


zoomorphic: The British media have just the same nonsense with unpaid internships in one of the most expensive cities in the world (London). Only, being British, they have to go on and one about how they aren't classist, that they really do want the best and brightest regardless of family wealth, and all you have to do is live in London with no pay for 2-3 years.

When my husband was a PhD student in the UK, the media types came by interested in recruiting them. Someone like him has a great deal to offer: a PhD in contemporary history (focussing on intelligence, international security and military issues - something the media has a dearth of expertise in), obviously excellent research skills, but also a significant talent in public speaking and interviewing, and a bit of a showmanship (he has a theatre background, in acting and writing). But since his parents are just plain old middle class (let alone working class), there's no chance that he would ever be able to work for the British media. One two-week research stint for a BBC show already cost about as much as we were paying in rent - in a shared house - for a month. (That said, he was supposed to be an uncredited intern, but they were impressed enough that they gave him a researcher credit).

I've gotten just tired of the whole media scene in the UK and the US - I don't know if Canada is as bad. It's become it's own kind of aristocracy - the media people almost all come from one class, and know people of the same class. And it shows in their writing and broadcasting - there is a reason that people are increasingly dismissing of the "chattering classes", because they feel so disconnected from the rest of us.

That said, the most annoying still are the pundits. Even the Canadian Globe and Mail - stupidly conservative in editorial stance, but once to be very respected for quality reporting - has been letting the pundits take over the A section. It's disgusting how they are letting editorialising slip out into the news stories - the line is gone.
posted by jb at 9:00 AM on August 21, 2009


That sounds a lot like the architecture industry in the UK too, jb.
posted by Flashman at 10:36 AM on August 21, 2009


And any job that has unpaid internships isn't a "professional" career. Law, medicine, engineering and other actual professional careers all offer paid placements for students. The two jobs mentioned in the articles, selling sports memorabilia or being an assistant at a modeling agency are not "professional" careers.

I just finished up an unpaid internship at a museum. It was not some bullshitty fake job, though.

Every single position, from marketing to exhibit design to education, was unpaid. That's because they have no money to pay us with. I was one of five interns in a department with two actual employees- it used to be three, but one got laid off. It's bad out there right now.

Of the 12 nonprofit marketing internships I applied for, three were paid. I did not hear back from any of them. I imagine they received more than 300 applications for each of those positions.

I worked a shitty job and took student loans to pay for my expenses, but if I hadn't gotten a job I would have had to go into credit card debt. My parents can't afford to support me much.

It sucks, and of course I would have loved to work a paid job. But I WILL NOT get a job in marketing, or any other communications field, with no experience. That's how it is now. I have no desire to 'fight the system' and not get a job because of it.

The past two summers I've had unpaid internships at non-profit theater companies. I learned an incredible amount and met some very cool people. The happy irony, I realized, is that working for places who couldn't afford to pay me meant I got to do things they couldn't afford to pay someone else to do. Maybe I was just lucky, but I was respected (and really appreciated!) as a member of the staff.

This is exactly right. Working at the museum, I was given actual responsibilities. Sure I had to do some grunt work, but I also designed several graphics projects that will be displayed in or used by the museum for years to come, and wrote copy that will be going into brochures distributed all over the city. And I never got anyone's damn coffee.
posted by showbiz_liz at 10:57 AM on August 21, 2009


You guys talk about how you need to be of a certain class to take this internships, but I don't think it's always true. I talked to my roomate (who was raised in a middle class family and doesn't get as much help from his parents as I do) and he told me he used to do the 22 day volunteer program but instead of ski school he maintained the terrain park.

These were full 8-4 days but they did come with one benefit, especially if you were a park rat. You would spend half the day "testing" the jumps you made. You couldn't leave the park, but you could really improve your jumping skills.

I was talking to some of my friends the other night and it turns out that, unless your employer sponsors your pass (It's a suprisingly common benefit around here) you usually end up doing these programs because they give you the pass right away. You can be either ski patrol, mountain host, safety control or ski instructor. Everyone works full days 8-4 and 22 of them in a year except for the ski patrol who only do 12. The volunteer ski-patrol program is the most highly sought after and among their ranks include medical proffessionals such as nurses or doctors (there's an old joke that says you have a higher response time for a cardiologist if you have a heart attack on Whistler mountain than if you have one in downtown Vancouver). Even the mayor is a volunteer patrol and not as a PR stunt he was volunteer patrol before he was elected.

Usually, retired ski bums become mountain hosts to reduce their costs. Unless you're connected, or a doctor, you need to work your way into the ski-patrol program by first volunteering as safety control (they set up fences and wave at fast skiers to slow them down). They are directly managed by the ski patrol and co-ordinate with them all the time. I'm assuming that once you've proved yourself through volunteer, if you want one of the paid positions you can get it (having a blasting ticket helps. They need certified blasters to handle the explosives for avalanches).

So, I got a little off topic but the point I'm trying to make is that if the patterns on Whistler Mountain hold true for other unpaid jobs then it would seem that the unpaid internship is often a path for kids from lower class families just as often as it may be for kids who are from upper class ones. The lower class kids just need to work a lot harder to finance their career path than kids like me who get a lot of parental support. (Although as a retail troll I get *really* cheap ski gear thanks to my own connections)
posted by Pseudology at 12:17 PM on August 21, 2009


of course I would have loved to work a paid job. But I WILL NOT get a job in marketing, or any other communications field, with no experience. That's how it is now. I have no desire to 'fight the system' and not get a job because of it.
The other option is to decide that communications fields that require extensive unpaid experience at your own expense is a racket. The only way to win this game is not to play. Can we call this what it is? You weren't an intern at the museum. You were volunteering at the museum. I think this is great: non-profits need volunteers, but if they're calling it an "internship," then they're making significant demands of your time and acting like you should be the one thankful to volunteer, rather than they being the ones thankful to have the volunteer work (in lieu of donations) available.
So, I got a little off topic but the point I'm trying to make is that if the patterns on Whistler Mountain hold true for other unpaid jobs then it would seem that the unpaid internship is often a path for kids from lower class families just as often as it may be for kids who are from upper class ones.
There's a difference between doing something as a "volunteer" because you want to help out with something you like and being an "intern" where you're expected to work like an employee for no pay. I think it's great that fire departments have a group of volunteer firefighters/EMTs available. How insulting would it be if to be a paid firefighter you had to work 40 hours a week for a year for the benefit of the local government before they'd deign to give you a paying job? What we actually do is something more rational: you train to be a firefighter/EMT/paramedic and find a paying job for someone who has that skillset. If the market became flooded with available rescue personnel to the point where fire departments required a summer or a year of unpaid full-time work before you would be considered for a paid fulltime job, then people would stay away from that field and choose other professions.

I'd take a close look at the sort of people who end up working as museum curators, editors at political journals, and fashion industry execs. I suspect you'd find precious few who came from state-school, middle class backgrounds that got there via the unpaid-internship route.
posted by deanc at 12:42 PM on August 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'd take a close look at the sort of people who end up working as museum curators, editors at political journals, and fashion industry execs. I suspect you'd find precious few who came from state-school, middle class backgrounds that got there via the unpaid-internship route.

It's funny: Basically every single Master's program in all those fields has a mandatory internship for at least one semester.

I guess what I'm saying is something along the lines of "what"
posted by Sys Rq at 2:37 PM on August 21, 2009


Unpaid internships are how you prove you are gullible enough and malleable enough to be trusted.
posted by five fresh fish at 3:41 PM on August 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


Sigh. I'm facing this right now. I'm breaking into performance (with a side of arts management) and a lot of performance/stage assisting work just doesn't pay. No one has any resources to pay you! It doesn't help that there's been quite a number of funding cuts recently, which has put a lot of organisations on the edge.

I've just graduated in a foreign country and I've spent pretty much the whole year so far looking for jobs. My final semester involved doing 3 work placements for credit; they were good fun, I did do some actual responsible work (procedure writing, strategy plans, etc), but they were with art organisations that don't always have a ton of money to hire other people. I'm currently looking for any sort of job - anything I vaguely qualify for - and I just keep getting rejections. One job (where I already work on a casual basis) said that my application was good but they chose someone who had more similar experience to the job role. Apparently transferable skills don't count for much in a job market that has 10x more applications for every job.

I've been looking up ways to get jobs that I haven't thought of yet. The Recession-Proof Graduate slideshow seemed promising, but its premise disappointed me a little: do free work. Like an unpaid internship except you're the one proposing the idea to companies. I'm already doing a ton of free work - later today I have a creative development thing for a performance piece, and tonight I'm selling books at the Poetry Festival. Last night I popped by at an art party and helped sell drinks. I could get a LOT of jobs working for free, everyone wants free help - but my rent needs to be paid and I need to be fed and none of them will take a dance as payment.

As some people noted above, there seems to be an expectation in the creative industries to get as many internships as possible. In Australia it's become a marketing tool for an energy drink as they offer internships in popular companies in fashion, music, and design (most unpaid). Then you have Jazzi McG whose claim to fame is doing all sorts of NYC fashion internships. I could have a Claim to Fame for Australian community arts organisations, but unless I can get some sort of income I can't be sustainable. And I'm tired of rejections.

Some people say that with unpaid internships, the creative industries is just making themselves more elitist and classist so they should be boycotted. However, most groups in CI are placed into a position where key people have to work for free because people don't value them enough to give them money - funding organisations cut and cut, the public claims that artists must work for free because they "love it", no one wants to pay for creative work. People don't value the arts; to get any work done, then, you'll have to be able to work for free and impress others enough to maybe toss you a dime.

Urgh, this post touched a nerve. Somebody give me a paying job, approve my application, realise my visa lets me work here unlimited (my alma mater's HR people have this stupid policy of not hiring anyone with bridging visas for fixed-term jobs because we have no end date - essentially is "until there is a decision on my PR application"). Just because I haven't worked an espresso machine before doesn't mean I can't learn; just because I don't have a car doesn't mean I won't get to work.
posted by divabat at 1:41 PM on August 22, 2009


The irony is that our country's high unemployment would go away if we weren't all so damned content with only two weeks of annual vacation. If everyone decided to insist on two months of vacation, there would be more than enough work to go around.

The sad thing is, with the economy like this investors scrutinize a company for efficiency, because without growth there is no other way to provide returns. The conventional wisdom is that, if earnings are dropping, you cut staff back to less than what you need and make the people who are still there take up the slack. This works especially well (for the bottom line, not so much for the employees) when people are on salary and get no overtime. Those who are hourly wage earners tend to get their overtime and/or hours cut to part time and lose their benefits.

Of course, with the economy like this people who are not on the employer end of things tend to push for labor reforms. We got some of that in the 1930s, though it took a while until people got fed up enough to elect FDR. Obama has tried to pattern his image after FDR. Problem is, he lacks the leadership (so far) to push through his own sweeping changes. I am not sure we will see real reform just yet.
posted by krinklyfig at 2:08 PM on August 22, 2009


The other option is to decide that communications fields that require extensive unpaid experience at your own expense is a racket. The only way to win this game is not to play.

That's fine if that's not what you want to do. But certain industries do utilize unpaid internships a lot. Just off the top of my head, if you want to work in independent film, one great way to start is to volunteer for shoestring-budget productions which need unpaid help. But this is assuming you already know that is not really a guaranteed path to riches, and that people who are doing this are mostly dedicated to the craft, although in the end you can do OK and really enjoy the work, if that's something you really enjoy.
posted by krinklyfig at 2:19 PM on August 22, 2009


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