One my my favourite sites, Metafilter, has a post today about interns in the UK. What really stood out for me was the part about how, in some fields, you need wealthy parents if you want to ever get a job. That’s because interning – sometimes for years – means giving up a salary. When I was a student, I spoke out against internships. I was studying communication and journalism and many media outlets only took on unpaid interns. The problem is that this can go on for years. And that means only rich kids can become interns.
From what I’ve seen, unpaid internships seem to be concentrated in fields dominated by women. And fields dominated by women tend to be among the lowerst paid. Women tend to be less likely to ask to be paid what they’re worth, so it’s a vicious cycle. As an employer, I have a strict policy of paying my contractors, no matter where they are in their career. I believe minimum wages exist for a reason and it’s a slippery slope if we start requiring people to work for free. I suppose it’s different if you’re getting university course credit, but I’d expect a different arrangement then. Too often, I hear of consulting colleague who have interns working at an extra desk for a chance to "learn" the business. Meanwhile, the head consultant is billing for their work. I think that’s disgusting. Moreover, if you don’t value entry-level work in your own field, how well do you think clients will value the work YOU do?
What do you think about internships?