Conde Nast, which owns magazine heavyweights—Vogue, Allure,Glamour, Vanity Fair, GQ and The New Yorker—ended their legendary internship program due to . . . a series of bad PR moves basically. The news comes after two former unpaid interns notoriously sued Conde Nast for being paid below minimum wage although they were handling tasks that would have reasonably been fulfilled by actual employees. (The law clearly stipulates that interns can’t do real a person’s job otherwise they’re doing a real person’s job but rather have to complete tasks that will educate them in the field but are still lesser than that of an entry-level position.)
This was essentially bad PR for Conde Nast and any place that overworked their interns to the core as internship lawsuits followed against Gawker Media and Charlie Rose to name a few. Instead of rethinking their internship program or having paid internships, Conde Nast just ended the program. While some may have complained about the long hours, hard work and coffee grabbing, other college students felt it was an honor to be chosen and a great addition to their resume.
There was worry, amongst the future Editors-in-Chief of America (or the HBICs, as I like to call them), that losing internships at notable magazines would create a void in editorial opportunities and thus, later on, job opportunities.
Chandra Turner, founder and president of Ed2010, told Racked,”Right now, there are so many unpaid internships that in my rough calculations, there are 100 unpaid internships to one paying job (and I think that’s actually conservative). That is setting people up for failure, really. If you have 100 interns working at any given magazine and there’s only one job opening for an entry-level, full-time, paid position at that magazine—which is a very likely scenario—that means that 99 people don’t get jobs. So maybe it’s not a bad thing to reduce the number of unpaid opportunities.”
We talked about how most college students (as perceived by hiring managers) aren’t qualified to start working straight out of college because university life just doesn’t prepare us for that but internships, apprenticeships and volunteering can fill those gaps by providing hands-on experiences. Nevertheless, we must consider this: the economy is in the crapper and if a company has 100 interns working then that company doesn’t have to hire new employees. That means less jobs. That means less entry-level jobs to be exact, the kind recent graduates are vying for.
Less internships could be a resolution for future grads who need work.
Chandra continued,”Honestly, those entry-level jobs are not going away. If you think about all the work that has to be done at a fashion magazine that is now probably being done by interns—if unpaid interns aren’t doing the work, somebody has to do the work. That means that [whoever doing the work] will be paid. And that could be really good news!”
However, internships are already tailored to the privileged. If you can’t afford to work for free because your parents can’t pay your rent or if you don’t live in a major city or area where your field is most prominent then you are already at a disadvantage. We need internships to get young people’s feet in the door of the job force but too many internships can render entry-level jobs obsolete. This is why Milennials are in such a crappy bind. It’s as if most of us are forced to work for free until we’ve accumulated enough experience to work a level above what should have been our starting point, ultimately creating a discrepancy in our skill set or lack thereof and probably the reason why hiring managers and employers think we are dumb-dumbs when they do hire us. Welp, it’s not our fault . . . we’re playing the only game that exists.
At the end of the day Chandra favors paid internships as the best compromise, “I really hope that every magazine can have paid internships.That would be the way to go. Fewer, paid internships. You would be able to spend more time with the intern, in the way that you are supposed to with interns, and be able to monitor them and mentor them and make it a more valuable experience if you have two as opposed to 10, 20, even 30. I’ve heard of places that have as many as 30 interns. In the long term, this may be good for everyone. Everybody has multiple internships [these days]. The same big fashion magazines pop up over and over again on peoples’ resumes. It’s not as prestigious as it used to be, it doesn’t have the same cachet. If you’re one of a hundred, it takes away the value of the experience. And [the magazine’s staff] might not even remember who you are.”
[Image via Shutter Stock]