Thursday, February 19, 2009

want an internship? that'll be $8,000 please

Apparently not only do some internships not pay, but they also cost money to get. A story in the Globe and Mail reports that one charity is auctioning off internship placements (some going for as much as $50,000), and another company guarantees a two-month internship for $8,000 (both US dollars, both offering spots in publishing).

While the author and most of the commentators are outraged – another way for the upper class to get the upper hand, they say – I simply think it's just a stupid idea, not an affront to meritocracy.

In the case of the auction, it's just the charity trying to find clever things to sell and companies donating the placements saying, "sure, we can have some idiot follow us around and ask questions (and do some grunt work!) for the good of some nonprofit." It looks like each internship is only a week or two – hardly an impressive stint to put on a resumé, regardless of what company the internship is with.

And the $8,000 guaranteed placement: Details are slim, but it looks like there is some sort of screening and interview process; it's not only money that will get you the job.

It's the people who pay that I think are stupid. With ingenuity, drive and perseverance, one should be able to arrange their own internship. Why not take the money you'd pay for the placement and live off it while doing the job, since you're not getting paid.

Thanks to Clare Douglas for pointing out the Globe article to me.


The Tuque Souq said...

Here's the original WSJ article cited by the Globe and Mail.
One student applied for 25 internships before she was desperate enough to pay for one. Are there too many students or not enough internships? Are too many students overvaluing the internship as a stage of the career path?

Corinna vanGerwen said...

I think there's definitely an imbalance of applicants to internships. It's not that editor-hopefuls are overvaluing an internship – it's nearly impossible to secure an entry-level position without on-the-job experience, which is often gained by doing an internship – it's that once they complete their first one, they think they have to do more. They either don't have the confidence to apply for a paying job, or they've had little success and think more internships are going to help them.

The Tuque Souq said...

Thanks for the response - sad but true. But I wonder why a magazine/publication would want to accept an intern who's already been an intern? Are these orgs doing interns a disservice by facilitating their extended stay in the internship trenches?

Shouldn't the role (in part) of the org be to instill in the intern the confidence needed to move ahead (or beyond) the industry?

Corinna vanGerwen said...

Yes, there is a certain amount of disservice magazines perform when hiring an intern who has already completed an internship, at least in terms of fostering the next generation of editors. But because those candidates have had the experience, they're likely to be the better applicants. And it's hard to say no to a better candidate.