Sunday, December 23, 2007

Unpaid Internships

When I was an undergrad, I was involved in almost every business group on campus (I majored in Business, not Sports Administration). Each one of the organizations, at some point, would have someone come in and talk about resumes/internships/job interviewing/etc. Often it was staff from the Career Resource Center or recruiters from companies interviewing on campus. Over and over I heard people say that if we had taken an unpaid internship, we should note on our resume that it was unpaid. They said that an unpaid internship was impressive because it showed that we were dedicated. They told us that it showed them we valued the key learnings that we would get from an organization (such as IBM) if we were willing to work for free. Fourteen years and one week removed from my college graduation day, I'm calling BULLSHIT!

There are some pretty big name organizations out there that still won't pay interns. I don't understand this. For years, Nike and other companies got hammered for paying low wages to international workers. Why and how is offering unpaid internships in this country still OK? Yes, interns are receiving training from top-notch organizations, but they're also doing work for them and contributing to the company.

I often tell people to volunteer for events to break into the sports business and start developing their network, and I still firmly believe that they should. The difference is that volunteering is done for the one or two days for a few hours a day. An internship is usually several months for ten and twelve hours a day, sometimes six or seven days a week.

In my last posting, I advised people to find organizations with name recognition for their internship. I'm still holding to that. Here's the amendment, though. If they're unpaid internships, think twice. I'll even change that to flat out say don't take them. They should pay something. They don't have to pay the equivalent of an executive salary, but interns do provide value and should be compensated for it. Graduate interns are just a few short months away from being the same people these companies will hire.

Thank goodness that I encountered the voices of sanity when I got to graduate school. I know what the stance was of the SAFM program with Dr. Kreutzer and Dr. Higgins at Ohio, and I'm pretty sure it's still the same. They never told anyone that they couldn't take an unpaid internship, but they sure didn't support it. They advised us to think long and hard about that decision.

If you're in a graduate program, what is your program's stance? Do they have one? It might be a good question to ask if you're interviewing to get into a program to see just how much value they put on your talents coming out of their program.

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