Wednesday, April 6th, 2011
In case you missed it, the NY Times published an Op Ed piece by Ross Perlin this past weekend (April 2, 2011) on unpaid internships. We couldn’t miss the opportunity to chime in on this important topic.
The author of this article argues that internships are elitist – only those with the best of connections get a foot in the door of great summer internship opportunities, as college career centers are not doing their part to provide equal access to all. He also argues that it’s unfair for college students to be unpaid, and in many cases beyond the protection of labor laws, when working for billion dollar companies.
Here’s how we see it:
We run a marketplace focused on internships and part-time jobs. So we leave it to market forces to dictate whether there is an appetite among job seekers for unpaid work as opposed to paid work. That said, when asked about our opinion on this topic, our response is always the same: pay interns. If nothing else, it makes better business sense.
As a business owner of a growing company, your time is money. When you hire an intern, you’re investing hours in training and development. And guess what your intern needs to live? Money. So if you’re not paying them, the reality is their eyes will constantly be open for someone else who will. And your hours spent in finding, hiring and training them will have been for naught.
Add to that the “nebulous area of the Labor Law.” Do you want to start digging through whether your internship meets the Department of Labor’s 6-point test on unpaid internships (or paying a lawyer to do it?). Minimum wage is roughly between $7-$8 depending on where you live ($7.25 in NYC) – hard to argue that it wouldn’t be worth it to make that nominal investment in finding and retaining someone great.
That said, these last few years have been some of the toughest in years when it comes to finding a job. For those looking for post-graduate work, it’s not enough to emerge from college as a top student. These days, top students are also looking for work experience, a global perspective, and strong connections. Internships – paid or unpaid – can be an avenue for checking the box on anywhere from one to three of these, so eager job seekers have indeed pursued them aggressively.
On the point of internships being elitist, from our perspective, of course, we don’t see it that way at all, because our marketplace is free for job seekers and very affordable/easy to use for employers. Perhaps career service centers at universities focus more on full time/post graduate employment. But who’s at a disadvantage there? Arguably, smaller companies and start-ups who also need an easy way to tap into top talent.
Which brings us to internships – what a great tool for business owners when it comes to recruiting and hiring.
So, is there room for improvement and innovation in the internship world? Sure! We’d be the first to agree with that. Is it as broken as Perlin would have us believe? We don’t think so.
We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.