The Bullshit Of Unpaid Internships

The Devil Wears Prada
The Devil Wears Prada

“This position is unpaid.”

One of the most dreaded phrase for students everywhere, second only to “we regret to inform you”.  You had scrolled hopefully through the whole job description with the extensive and intimidating list of responsibilities and qualifications. You were beginning to believe that this was it, the job you were looking for that would not be so bad. Something you could see yourself doing without actively hating yourself and your employer. But there it is, the loathsome word: unpaid.

However, that is not even the worst part. Not only is the internship unpaid but for the sheer privilege of essentially volunteering for Company X you need two years of relevant experience, at least a 3.5 GPA, and extensive extra-curricular activities (ideally in leadership positions). In addition to that you need to be able to work 60-hour weeks and willing to sacrifice your first born child. Wow. Thanks so much.

Sure, it’s phrased as a wonderful learning opportunity to “get experience” in the “real world”, whatever that means. Company X is really doing you a favor. They are going to help you learn skills that companies want in someone they will hire and pay actual money to. But wait just one second. Isn’t that what college is for?

Correct me if I’m wrong, but I thought I was paying thousands of dollars a year on a higher education to learn such skills that will make me an employable adult. But now that isn’t enough. In addition to that expensive college degree I need to spend my summers working for free to get this experience that everyone throws around as a buzzword, without actually explaining what that entails. Well that’s just bullshit.

Cumulative student debt in America is in the trillions, increasing numbers of students are financing the ever-growing costs of a college education through loans. There are countless articles and news clips detailing this phenomenon and what students should be doing to avoid gaining thousands of loans and the most obvious solution is working. Get a job, says an online article. Work part-time during the year and full-time during the summer, says some expert.

Invest in yourself through this unpaid internship, says Company X. In order to get a paying job you need relevant experience, says Company Y. Work these long hours for no money to pad your résumé, says  Company That Makes Millions in Profit Each Year.

So I’m supposed to work to not take out student loans to finance my college education that is supposedly not teaching the skills/experience needed to get hired at a paying job so I need to accept this unpaid internship for which I need a college education. Great. Thanks. I feel more experienced already. TC mark

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