WellesleyWeston Magazine


Launched in 2005, WellesleyWeston Magazine is a quarterly publication tailored to Wellesley and Weston residents and edited to enrich the experience of living in two of Massachusetts' most desirable communities.

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Page 43 of 211

Unpaid internship inequality is also fueled by the supreme impor- tance of a student's personal relationships. Numerous students exploit family relationships to land competitive internships without even applying, making it hard to dismiss common claim that grades can take the back seat if you've got "connections." For many, finding and financing unpaid internships is simply unfeasible. Yet, as graduation rates increase and job competition inten- sifies, we cannot trivialize the edge summer internships afford. This system promulgates a butterfly effect; despite their qualifications, those who cannot afford unpaid work or lack "connections" miss out on résumé-bolstering titles, contact building, and, consequentially, future nepotism. Ultimately, restricted access to unpaid internships prevents many students from advancing in the work world with the same speed and security as those who were lucky enough to land an internship while in college. Yet unequal access is not the only shortcoming of unpaid intern- ships. According to the US Department of Labor, an unpaid intern- ship, "even though it includes actual operation of the facilities of the employer, [must be] similar to training which would be given in an educational environment," for the benefit of the intern, not displacing a regular employee, and of no immediate advantage to the employer. 2 Some unpaid internships provide this student-based experience. However, many internships are, essentially, glamorized busy work. For example, companies now recruit unpaid interns to advance their social media platforms, as older employees are unfamiliar with Twitter and Facebook, programs the intern already knows thoroughly. I clarify these realities not to complain; busy work does provide invaluable observa- tion of an industry's operations. I only intend to raise awareness that, by law, these menial tasks may be unjustified without payment. Qualms aside, when considering unpaid internships, parents and students easily subscribe to the "it's better than nothing" mindset, a decision recent studies prove dangerous. According to the National Association of Colleges & Employers 2012 Internship & Co-op Student Survey, only 37 percent of college graduates in 2012 who completed unpaid internships received job offers upon graduating, while 36 percent of students with no internship experience received offers and an impressive 60 percent of paid interns received at least one job offer. The benefits of paid internships are clear, yet unpaid posi- tions appear relatively inconsequential. But there I was: not only seeking summer intern advice before I could imagine less than a foot of snow on the ground, but displayed on Middlebury's internship agenda. It appears we've sunk deep into a double bind. On one hand, students and parents alike are terrified they, or their children, will fall behind, lose opportunity, and face the dark abyss of "unemployment." On the other, students are offering themselves as free labor and, consequentially, per- petuating social segregation. So, what can be done? As Mary Schilling, Executive Director of Career Development at the College of William and Mary, said when interviewed about the "Internship Economy" by On Point's Tom Ashbrook, "We must work within our own backyard first." Interpreting "our own backyard" as the students one advises, the schools attended, and the companies worked for, I offer a few sugges- tions. First, colleges and universities must more effectively assist "unconnected" students in securing quality internships in their fields of study. Students should be encouraged to visit career centers early in their college experience to develop relationships and networking skills with career advisors. Second, students should raise consciousness of the inequalities of unpaid internships by petitioning employment offices to increase/re-budget internship funding and level the playing field for qualified students (recent Middlebury student petitions have notably improved summer funding). Lastly, students and parents my turn op-ed issues speak up opinion sound off town green my turn op-ed issues speak up opinion sound off town green my turn op-ed issues speak up 42 W e l l e s l e y W e s t o n M a g a z i n e | s p r i n g 2 0 1 4 "The benefits of paid internships are clear, yet unpaid positions appear relatively inconsequential." 040-043_WWMa14_forum_internships_v2_WellesleyWeston Magazine 2/1/14 3:25 PM Page 42

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