Duke It Out: Internships

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[It's pretty obvious that the average CollegeCandy reader has some very strong opinions. Opinions that she likes to share with everyone on the site. We love a strong woman (unless she happens to be charging at us with her fists raised), so we thought we'd give her a real forum to discuss her thoughts, feelings, and perspectives. Every Friday I'll be featuring a hot topic (like the plus size movement! ) and leaving it up to you, the readers, to duke it out. So, read it and get your debate on in the comments section below!]

The last few months a bunch of people (mostly employed people who don’t actually have a stake in the matter, I must note. *Suck it, employed people!*) have made a big deal out of internships - Are they fair? Are they worth it? Are they even legal? Since summer is basically the official season of internships and since we’re really the ones who have a stake in the matter, I think it’s about time we had our say in the matter.

Now, internships vary from profession to profession but there are a few things that have pretty much become standard – you work (usually the bitch grunt work no one else wants to do) and in return you learn skills and get experience in your field to beef up your resume. Like the mythical unicorn, paid internships do exist (so I’ve heard, anyway) but by and large, nowadays you work an internship for free and just accept that it’s an investment in your future. These are the two big aspects that people seem to have a problem with since it ultimately means that you’re doing a crap job and not getting paid for it.

On one side, as someone who is trying to break into media and publishing (two industries that are basically built on the unpaid internship model) I can say without hesitation, the whole arrangement sucks. Of course we deserve to be paid for the work we do, particularly considering that now many businesses are picking up the slack from lay-offs by having interns do the work that used to be done by a paid employee. The truth is (and, admittedly, these are all based on my personal experiences and those of people I know so they aren’t universal) most of us learn something from our internships, but compared to the time and effort we put into them, no, most of what we do isn’t really going to further our career goals in any practical way.

Now, none of that is to say that all internships are soul-sucking slave-labor; I’ve actually enjoyed several of my internships and am damn grateful for the privilege of having been in them. Whether or not they were all the most practically helpful experiences is debatable, but every one of them has added to my resume and made it possible for me to get subsequently better positions. Basically everything I know about my field I learned on the job and I think that’s true with a lot of professions. And here’s the big thing to me – sure, interns get screwed, but we know it going in. Does anyone (at least anyone with half a brain) really walk into an internship and expect that it’s going to be all about them and there’s not going to be any menial bitch work? Really? Employers hire interns because interns can be handy. We do internships because then we can use those names and contacts to make ourselves look better to future employers. Sure, they use us, but we know they’re doing it and we use them right back.

Alright, I’m on the fence about this one. What do you think? Are internships wrong? Has the internship system been corrupted? Has this whole thing been blown way out of proportion? And, right or wrong, are internships worth doing? Duke it out!

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