The Last Word: College Internships

Hello Chicsters!!

How GORGEOUS is this weather!!! I don’t want to do anything, besides hang out or drive around with the windows open listening to great music. Unfortunately I still have class until April 30 (which is early so it’s not too unfortunate) and this job thing still isn’t nailed down, so I have plenty to do.

As a graduating senior, I’ve begun looking back on the past four years of my life with a bit of a critical lens. There are many things I did wrong, but many more things I did right. I made a great choice of a school, picked a major for which I am well-suited and worked my little behind off to get great internships and jobs to help keep me afloat. Sure every once in a while I would neglect one homework assignment or another in favor of all the things mentioned above, but in the end does your GPA really matter? I don’t think it does; I think it’s like SAT scores, once that magical time of 11 x 17 envelopes and spouting acceptances off like a rap sheet ends, no one really cares where you applied or what you got. It’s all about where you went to school and where you are working. I think your job becomes like a letterman jacket in the real world– the more prestigious the company, the more prestigious you are.

So how do we get the cool letterman jackets? Internships, or at least that’s what I was taught. Throughout college at my wonderful institution, I was taught that working for free (or for college-credit, or for a small stipend) meant that I would ultimately rake in the “big bucks” in the end. Writing the article yesterday, about how unpaid internships might not meet federal standards, made me think about the ones I have done in the past and continue to do. Some are like jobs, I show up, I get paid and voila, I’m an employee (I pay taxes, so I should at least get that title!). Others aren’t like that at all. Clips are the golden ticket into the world of journalism and some companies that hire interns (not really any I’ve worked for, but I have hard stories!) expect students to pay for their commute and work ridiculous hours to boot! Commuting around Manhattan, LA, Boston or some other metropolis is not really a big deal, but when you commute from the suburbs, it can get quite costly. So is that worth it? Many universities and businesses claim it is, but how do we know they are right?

The job market stinks, we all know that. It’s hard to get a job, yea cry me a river. I don’t think the incessant complaining done by members of my generation is actually getting us anywhere– it’s showing employers that we are similar to our predecessors in that we want everything for nothing. We want jobs because we “worked” hard in college– I want a job because I can work hard in the future. I want a job to be a career, a new goal for which to strive. I think that’s the message we should be sending, because you know what if we didn’t allow the internship system to become what it is, it wouldn’t be.

I was talking to friends about the post last night and many claim that “that’s the way internships are, you have to work for nothing to earn something in the end.” And I vehemently disagree. I think if we projected an image that said our work is just as good as the paid members of the team (because we are all employees) then perhaps more companies would be willing to pay interns.

The internship that sticks out in my mind is one which a friend of mine did at an unnamed morning show in New York City. The company required my friend to commute at 5:30 in the morning so that she would be there in time for shooting (my school is located in Connecticut, it takes about 2 hours to get to Manhattan), and then kept her until 8, 9 at night, which meant she didn’t get home until 11 or 12 a.m. and obviously didn’t give her adequate time to prepare for her next full day of classes. She didn’t get paid, she didn’t get lunch (well, she was a courier for their lunch, so I guess in a way she did “get” lunch) and she didn’t learn anything that would be valuable for her career. This internship should be considered illegal– it’s 100% beneficial to the employer, but not really to the student.

I had a company tell me once that they couldn’t pay me because I didn’t have a degree–in the summer before my senior year. I can tell you right now that the work I have done this year in college really didn’t make me any more or less capable than I was last summer. I think that was just an excuse to not pay for valid work.

What do you think? How do you feel about this? I want your opinion to be heard on this subject to perhaps change the system we seem to be chained to.

Remember to have your opinion heard, whether it’s the last word or not.

xoxo V

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