Do unpaid internships
pay off? -- Page 2
In Freismuth's case,
there is a happy ending to the three-jobs-plus-an-internship scramble.
was at the right place at the right time," says Freismuth. "I interned
from September to the end of the following January -- five or six months. Then
I got the most ideal reward from my internship, in that I got hired."
wasn't a full-time job, but it was a paid start.
of the United States Agency for International Development, or USAID, in Washington,
DC, has interned several times, including two unpaid stints at the State Department,
and he now regularly supervises and mentors interns.
there are four clear benefits to a good internship, even if it is unpaid. He recommends
making sure those four assumptions seem likely before you sign on.
you've got a supervisor or colleagues on your team who are willing to mentor you,"
he says. "Second, you have a supervisor willing to offer meaningful opportunities.
Third, there are opportunities for networking," which can be invaluable as
"And fourth, you can stay focused on deliverables
-- meaning, you can find some value that you have added to the organization.
Any good résumé should say, 'the organization was
here when I arrived, and when I left, it reached this point,'"
Joshi says. "And an unpaid internship can still do that on
hard data, just hope
The Cooperative Education and Internship Association,
which includes internship coordinators at campuses around the country, and the
National Council of Employers, which releases closely watched data on college-graduate
hiring, had no official numbers on unpaid internships and what they lead to.
But some anecdotal evidence from college internship
coordinators and 20-somethings interviewed around the country is
At the University
of North Texas, out of all the students who take internships, "I'd say probably
at least 80 percent are offered a job," says Gary Steele, president of the
Cooperative Education and Internship Association and associate director of cooperative
education at The University of North Texas. "They may not take that offer,
but they do get the offer."
It also might be a graduation requirement. And that's
the other amazing wrinkle in the internship game. In many majors,
you now need an internship to get a college degree. So, in other
words, you'll have to pay to work for free.
"The student can get credit for it as an elective,"
Steele says. "What better way to get three hours of credit
and not have to attend class?
it's paid or unpaid, the benefit is still the same," says Steele. "They
still get the experience. As far as the downside to an internship, there really
isn't one if it's done as it's supposed to be done, which means it's related to
Internships are a windfall for employers,
and that may translate into a windfall for students or recent graduates.
any internship, paid or unpaid, if the student does a great job, it's a win-win
situation for the employer," says Steele. "The employer sees a student
who will work for nothing or not much money, and it only makes sense for that
employer to hire them."
can lead to jobs
An unpaid internship can give you the samples you need
to get a job elsewhere.
"At Bloomberg News, I wrote a
few feature stories that I was really proud of," says David Novich, a young
journalist in New York, "including one on how African-Americans invest in
the stock market."
And there was another, long-term benefit,
Novich says, and it's one that cuts across all kinds of internships. Being supervised
was an education.
"There's no experience like watching
someone edit your story," says Novich. "At Bloomberg, I got a solid
foundation -- learning how to edit and say things more concisely -- that I still
If it works well, an unpaid internship can
have long-term benefits in the paid working world, supervisors say.
"If you take all these assumptions," says
Joshi, referring to the markers of a good internship, "the
intern would have a mentor for life, or at least five or 10 years.
"He'd also have a referee, a foot in the door,
exposure to an organization, and he can see if he even likes the
feel of an organization to work in," Joshi adds. "It's
not to curry favor with a specific organization, it's to see if
you'd like to work in that kind of field overall."
Many interns at USAID come from special fellowships
that are limited to graduate students or competitive national fellowships
like the Truman Fellowships, so in effect, they are subsidized by
universities, philanthropists or the government.
Asked about the economic
background of his colleagues, who often have unpaid internships on their résumés,
Joshi noted that most grew up in comfortable surroundings.
"By and large everyone I know has come from middle,
upper-middle class and upper class. I would be hard-pressed to find
someone from a lower-income background."
says, there are a few programs -- like fellowships for West Virginians -- that
can help young people who need some assistance taking a dream unpaid internship.
general, Joshi says, his field isn't about the money, and he makes sure to tell
his interns that.
"I try to make the pitch that it's not
how much money you earn," Joshi says, "but are you happy in what you