It's almost summer, the semester's winding down but you've been spending the majority of your free time not dedicated to studying shooting off resume after resume and scrounging every job board and company website you can think of. Hour after hour spent searching and you finally find it: an internship in your field, in your city for the summer but there it is. The one word that strikes dread into the heart of every hopeful intern: unpaid.
I'm fairly certain that every college-aged student has experienced this scenario at least once if they've ever had to search for an internship. I know personally, I went through this exact same cycle countless amounts of times over the past three years. It's grueling, time-consuming and can leave anyone feeling downtrodden when it's all said and done. That being said, I cannot imagine
Any work that's worth doing is worth getting paid for. Internships that use "gaining experience" as a selling point is akin to trying to convince a musician or artist to do their services for free in exchange for "exposure". Experience doesn't pay the bills, it won't cover for groceries and it certainly doesn't help toward saving money to pay off student loans.
The logic behind an unpaid internship is so one-sided it's nauseating to think about. You go to a company, serve whatever function they need you to and at the end of it all you have the hope or promise that they might extend an offer for a full-time position. Sure, you're actually poorer than you were before you started the position and chances are you'll be exploited as cheap, expendable labor because it costs literally nothing to have you there, but at least you'll have some sweet experience to put on your resume.
Unpaid internships are also inherently elitist and put up barriers to entry for students who don't have someone to help financially while they basically work a job for free. The problem is exaggerated when students have to travel to other states for these internships and are required to pay for food, rent, and travel on their own. We have to ask ourselves who has the means to access these unpaid internships, especially if they're at prestigious companies, and why students are being walled off even if they meet or exceed the position's requirements.
The most frustrating part of this whole situation is that nearly every aspect of the American economy has grown except wages. No one can deny that we are officially in an economic boom, but for many Americans, it still feels like it's hard to make ends meet. 78% of American workers live paycheck to paycheck. of American workers live paycheck to paycheck, and that level of financial insecurity is downright criminal. Along those same lines, in America today the average CEO from a Fortune 500 company's salary is 361 times higher than that of the average worker in the company. For context, that number was only 20 times higher in the 1950s. If your company cannot afford to pay your interns yet you still require their labor, maybe it's time to rethink the structure and financials of your business.
The bottom line is unpaid internships are extremely exploitive and at times elitist. Your time, your effort and your skills are always worth something and it's time that we make it clear that this practice should no longer be allowed to exist in a modern economy.