Post Academic

Transfer Your Skills: Steer Clear of Unpaid Internships

Posted in Transfer Your Skills by Caroline Roberts on April 4, 2010
Tags: , , , , ,

Image Source,Photobucket Uploader Firefox ExtensionWhen you’re making a career change, an internship accelerates your transformation. Not only will you build new skills, but you’ll also build your network. Accepting an internship at a dot-com helped me get my first real job after grad school, and I’ve been working for dot-coms ever since.

But here’s the deal—I was paid for my internship. I wasn’t paid much, but the people who hired me knew that a person can’t eat and make rent on experience and contacts alone. The hourly pay was low, but it still beat minimum wage, and it led to something better.

Unfortunately, more companies are calling for interns, and based on what I’ve seen on Craigslist, many of the new internships are unpaid. According to the New York Times, the Department of Labor is on to this scam:

“If you’re a for-profit employer or you want to pursue an internship with a for-profit employer, there aren’t going to be many circumstances where you can have an internship and not be paid and still be in compliance with the law,” said Nancy J. Leppink, the acting director of the department’s wage and hour division.

An unpaid internship might be all right if you are in college and getting credit, but remember that a legitimate company should pay for your time. Internships typically involve making photocopies and brewing coffee, but that is still work, and you should still get money. If the company refuses to pay you, don’t take the internship, no matter how prestigious the company is. You can’t eat prestige.

Growth of Unpaid Internships May Be Illegal, Officials Say [NYT]

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