The New York Times piece “For Interns, All Work and No Payoff,” highlighting millennials who are now in their late twenties and are frustratingly stuck in internships, made the unpaid internship look like a desolate wasteland. The Times is not alone in this perception. Internships have recently been perceived as more of a hassle than a career booster because of the lack of payment and esteem that comes from them. However, this perception is misguided. The experience and benefits of internships allow for a smoother transition into the tumultuous marketplace, outweighing the low payment and status.
This view of internships can be summed up in Condé Nast’s decision to cancel their internship program in 2013. The program was cancelled because interns complained they were not being paid the minimum wage and were being treated like “minions” rather than co-workers. These complaints should not sully what was an excellent and necessary program. Internships, like those at Condé Nast, are dire for some students. According to a 2012 survey, 69 percent of companies offered full-time positions to their interns over outside applicants. This statistic is significant because, in a market where 54 percent of recent graduates are unemployed, an internship will keep a recent graduate from struggling.
The Class of 2014 will see 1.6 million students graduating with a bachelor’s degree and entering the workforce in search of a job. The competition for employment is growing more intense and, as the level of intensity increases, so does the value of an unpaid internship. A bachelor’s degree may be a prerequisite to having a resume read, but the internships are what actually gets an applicant hired. Employers expect to hire 7.8 percent more graduates from the class of 2014 than they did for applicants from the class of 2013, and some of those will undoubtedly be interns.
While interns must endure the trivial tasks of fetching coffee and stapling copies for little payment, they are ultimately gaining experience in a career of their choice. The unfortunate reality of the Condé Nast internship program ending is that now students will have fewer opportunities to gain experience in the industries they play a role in. Additionally, a student decide whether or not a career is right for them in an internship. Those who forgo internships could end up in a career that leaves them dissatisfied. The misery of fetching coffee is temporary in comparison to the misery of working the wrong job.
The perception that internships are no longer a valuable asset is not entirely correct. A dead end internship is an anomaly — internships are a necessity for success. No one starts at the top, and in order to reach the top one needs to develop a work ethic and gain experience — two things an internship provides. The beauty of the American economy is that one has the ability to work their way up the ladder of success. Yet, without internships that ladder might not have any rungs.
Lena Rawley is a staff columnist. Email her at [email protected].