This past summer, I along with thousands of students across the United States participated in an internship. In the beginning, everyone was bright-eyed and hopeful, but as the weeks passed, the reality of the glamorized idea of the “intern life” set in.
It’s easy to get caught up in the hype or feel as if you don’t have a say because you hold a temporary position, but that is not true. While students chase after these positions they often compromise themselves and the effort that goes into the work they produce.
Many internship programs, such as federal internships, require interns to commit 40 hours a week similar to an entry level position but don’t treat their interns with respect or recognize their work.
For example, in 2013 Conde Nast, the publisher of popular magazines such as Vanity Fair, Vogue and the New Yorker was subjected to public scrutiny. Interns sued the media conglomerate for the lack of pay and possible labor violations during their time with the magazines. Conde Nast eventually settled for 5.8 million and has since canceled their internship program.
This lack of appreciation and representation within an organization combined with long hours leads to exploitation. Interns, paid or unpaid, have the right to voice their opinions and concerns. However, if an intern fails to speak up they are only hindering themselves.
The goal of an internship is to give young adults the chance to gain experience in their prospective fields. Due to the drastic rise in competition in the job market having an internship or prior experience in your field has become absolutely necessary.
This does not give companies or organizations the right to misuse their workers, whether they are unpaid, paid, temporary or permanent. It is a privilege to be able to have an internship and appreciation should be shown towards your administrators, but voicing your concerns is important.
As an intern you go in to learn something you felt you could not gain in the classroom. Some interns will make sacrifices or commitments to support their internship. For example, since my internship with Voice of America was unpaid, I had to get a side job to pay for the extra expenses of working in a big metropolitan city.
If you feel as if you are not gaining skills or experience despite the effort and time you are putting forward then let your program leaders or administrators know. More often than not, they will help cater the program to your goals.
The job market has changed. With more graduates than available jobs it can be challenging to find a job and internships are a great way to better prepare yourself for that reality. Do not be afraid of committing and putting in the extra mile to differentiate yourself from the crowd. There is no shame in working a second job or commuting two hours into the city, but make sure you are getting what you need to get out of the internship you are working for.
The perspective I gained from my time at Voice of America is something I will never take for granted. Though I worked almost every day between work and interning along with classes, the lessons in discipline and work ethic are far more valuable to me. Being able to voice not only my concerns, but my ideas and perspectives made my experience with the journalists at Voice of America a positive one.