Streams

Share Your Intern Experience

Monday, July 01, 2013

The investigative organization ProPublica is trying to learn as much as they can about the current intern landscape. Blair Hickman, ProPublica community editor, discusses their project and we open the phones for calls about what the intern life is like in 2013.

Guests:

Blair Hickman

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Comments [22]

Lily from Honolulu

Just sharing...I was an intern at a union in the summer of 2002 in NYC. On my third day of work the employee I was supposed to be assisting and learning from went to lunch and never came back. The fourth day of work the boss basically asked if I could do his job, which I accepted (did I have another opition? I was alone in NYC, 20, naive). I got my own intern and did the full-time job for the rest of the summer. For $400 a week. I learned a lot.

Jul. 01 2013 06:26 PM

(And back to my C'listification point, interns seem to be, first and foremost a labor pool to keep failing companies afloat for another couple of months or years!)

Jul. 01 2013 02:08 PM

This young reporter may want to get some perspective on the "Craigslistification" of internships. (And perhaps a follow up on the C'fication of jobs).

One lesson seems to be that, especially in the arts, unpaid workers are so useful because their work is perceived to be without direct value. They simply seem to be for young rich people to meet the powerful, whether it is Goldman Sachs, The White House... or your local NPR affiliate. Conde interns are often secretaries' secretaries -- or simply unpaid college-educated secretaries that have replaced the fired professional non-college-eduated ones.

For so many creative jobs, for ex. journalism, the intern's financial sacrifice is even higher for interns since the pay scale comes to a screeching halt (how much do WNYC producers earn?) practically before it starts.

Jul. 01 2013 02:07 PM
Jeany from New York

The best internship that I ever had was in London with an international news magazine. Upon learning that he didn't have to pay me, the bureau chief (from California) told me that he "didn't believe in slave labor" and I was paid for my work.

Jul. 01 2013 01:30 PM
Emily from Queens

What about state requirements that students who are becoming teachers teach full time for a whole year without receiving any compensation? There is no doubt that time in the classroom is necessary for any new teacher to begin to "learn the ropes" but teacher training programs need to find a way to provide this opportunity for people who also need to pay the bills.
Last spring I began my student teaching for the DOE. I moved in with my boyfriend to a smaller and cheaper apartment so that I could even begin to be able to afford working full time for free. Monday through Friday I worked 40 plus hours in a school, Wednesday and Thursday evenings I had to attend class, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday I worked in a restaurant, and any time in between was spent lesson planning or completing course work. I averaged about 6 hours of sleep per night and close to no sleep at all the first two weeks as my body adjusted to the overwhelming amount of stress. On top of this, moving to a cheaper apartment doubled my commute time to school and work- about an hour and a half. I do not have health insurance because I cannot afford it, I do not qualify for financial aid at my college because I am considered part time, and I cannot receive consideration for the 4,000 per semester grant offered to student teachers by my school because it requires the student to not be taking any classes at the same time that they student teach (um, really?).
I was also paired with a new teacher who was unable to provide any training to validate this sacrifice and often looked to me to be the expert while putting a majority of her responsibilities into my lap. This is, unfortunately, quite common in student teaching experiences and my frustration was shared with many of my classmates.

Jul. 01 2013 12:19 PM
Sonni from Manhattan

Surprised that guest didn't know the particulars of the Black Swan intern case since this is such an important case in this matter. The intern who sued Fox Searchlight was starting a second career and had been in accounting field before the film industry. Because the studio knew about his background they had him as an intern doing accounting work similar to paid accountants at Fox.

Jul. 01 2013 11:53 AM
Chantal from Manhattan

I'm a rising 2L in law school (top 20) and I'm currently working in my fifth unpaid internship. I think that my extensive internships are beginning to make me resentful of working in an office. Keep in mind that unpaid internships really mean that we're paying to intern, giving the expense of housing and commuting (LIRR + subway = aprx $500 a month). Working for credit is even worse. To get 4 credits for a summer internship from NYU, I would have to pay NYU about $4400 while the school has no involvement whatsoever (!!!!) My experience at the ACLU HQ a few summers ago was probably the only great internship that I had because they had a few programs a week for interns and were really invested in us. Nevertheless, I really can't believe that unpaid internships are legal. They're probably part of the reason why I and many others couldn't find a job out of undergrad -- why would offices pay to hire permanent employees when they have people fighting over unpaid positions? Last summer I interned for the Mayor's Office and my supervisor hardly oversaw anything I did over the summer, never kept in touch and probably wouldn't even remember my name (I was one of three summer interns working under him) --- all of this meaning that I could never even imagine asking for a letter of recommendation despite having worked for 40 hours a week for 10 weeks. We're generally treated like slaves and something needs to change.

Jul. 01 2013 11:52 AM
Mandy from Brooklyn

I attended a school where most students have their tuition paid by their parents and are supported by them after graduation as well and therefore can afford to take unpaid internships for a few years after school. I have loans and no support from my parents so I can't afford to work for a few days a week or full time without getting paid or only getting paid minimum wage. My peers from school have definitely had a major boost in their careers in the creative industry because of their ability to take on internships after graduation. It's really become, even more so, an industry where you can only get a foot in the door if you are coming from a family that is financially well off. The internships the were taking on are definitely jobs that 5-10 years ago were paid, entry level jobs and they still require a long list of skills and past experience just to get the unpaid internships. Because companies and studios are able to find recent grads to work for free there essentially is no such thing as an entry level job in my industry. There is a huge gap career, income wise between the grads from our class who were able to take on unpaid internships and those of us who paid our way through school and are burdened with loans and living expenses and could not take on those internships after school and could not find entry level jobs within our chosen field. Those of us in that group are also stuck working in jobs that are only remotely related to what we went to school for because of the situation with unpaid internships.

Jul. 01 2013 11:49 AM
fuva from harlemworld

Paid internships, when there's really nothing to do, for kids who haven't even committed to the field...Yet another aspect of excessive unfair advantage flowing to the privileged. The dimensions of the current income/opportunity inequality are greater than we can often imagine.

Jul. 01 2013 11:45 AM
DYV from Park Slope, Brooklyn

Unless you are getting college credit, any internship for a company or organization that is FOR PROFIT should be paid. People should be paid for their work. For profit companies cannot have volunteers doing the work that paid employees could be doing.

40 per week internships for no pay will always be more available to affluent young people because they are the ones who can afford to take on that workload and not get paid.

It's incredibly classist and short-sighted.

There are almost no entry-level positions in most industries in NYC any longer. You can't require 3-5 years experience for an entry-level position and expect young people graduating from college to be able to meet those criteria.

There is no desire in companies to provide guidance to young,skilled, bright (but not necessarily experience) people entering the professional workforce.

It's very disheartening.

Jul. 01 2013 11:45 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

Well, paying for an apprenticeship by a craftsman goes way back in history, at least to the Middle Ages, where you hoped, prayed, and even paid an artisan or craftsman in a guild to take in a son to work for nothing in order to learn and have a trade.

Jul. 01 2013 11:43 AM
Mary from UWS

I didn't have the luxury of doing internships because I paid for my own education and living expenses. Therefore I waited tables to make ends meet and missed out on some valuable learning experiences that several of my friends and colleagues got. I felt like I was always behind the eightball and that I never caught up – even now in my mid forties.

Jul. 01 2013 11:43 AM
Cathy from Hoboken

in 1984 as a junior at Cornell majoring in art, I had a summer internship at a printmaking atelier in NYC. It was unpaid and for credit. However, my parents insisted that I get part time paying job as well, which only allowed me the time to do the internship 1-day a week for 1 credit. Consequently, I was not able to get a involved as the other interns at the atelier and was ultimately given a lower grade and told that I lacked sufficient dedication by both the print atelier owner and my professor through whom I obtained the internship. The thought was that I should have made the sacrifice of money and time to be there. The entire experience was frustrating and demoralizing.

Jul. 01 2013 11:42 AM
Alistair from New York City

Typical. The film and advertising industry take advantage of free labour constantly i.e. interns. They are usually 'connected' types, wealthy and are a waste because as the caller Tom mentioned, there isn't a lot for them to do.

Conversely, when I was at Tisch, I worked in internships throughout my years of undergrad, worked extremely hard often harder than my 'supervisors'.

Jul. 01 2013 11:41 AM
Diana

As part of my position at a university, I help students identify internships and find placements, which requires tremendous effort. Employers are NOT anxious to take on interns. My worry is that without unpaid internships, students will lose out on these opportunities to gain experience.

Jul. 01 2013 11:40 AM
Ellen from New York

I started an unpaid internship one summer in college for a small production company that had just changed offices. For the first week they mostly had us painting the walls. I quit after that week but wish I had left earlier. I would definitely consider this exploitation - we were just easy unpaid labor.

Jul. 01 2013 11:35 AM
Ellen from New York

I started an unpaid internship one summer in college for a small production company that had just changed offices. For the first week they mostly had us painting the walls. I quit after that week but wish I had left earlier. I would definitely consider this exploitation - we were just easy unpaid labor.

Jul. 01 2013 11:35 AM
chip

The are hundreds of illegal, unpaid internships on Craigslist. Why are they allowed to advertise these illegal jobs?

Jul. 01 2013 11:34 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

Cheap labor is cheap labor, and those who require it will try to get governments to accommodate them by whatever legislation or means they can pay for in order to get that cheaper labor.

Jul. 01 2013 11:34 AM
Dave from Manhattan

I graduated college in 2009, and have spent the last four years in and out of internships. My most recent internship was the only one that mattered -- a good, small company where I was taught tasks beyond the regular office administration and receptionist duties. My supervisor knew my name, and actually provided letters of recommendation for me in addition to the stipend they offered for me to be there. It wasn't full pay, but I was glad to know that lunch and transit were taken care of, and that my efforts would pay off. Since moving on from there, my first full-time job has been within the same industry, one that is very difficult to break into, and I could not be happier with just getting that break.

Comparatively, the other two were in equally small offices, but much younger companies. They likened themselves as "start-ups," and were very obviously getting the interns to work for free. One of which has since gone under.

The lesson: Be wary of 'start-ups,' and pay close attention to the company's standing in the industry. If the office looks like they could be ready to move out the next day, they probably will.

Jul. 01 2013 11:21 AM
olive

A great book published by Verso Books on the topic: http://www.versobooks.com/books/1112-intern-nation.

Jul. 01 2013 11:15 AM
Martin Chuzzlewit from Manhattan

Brian ... please ask if they are just collecting data on internships at conservative work places. (say, FOX News)

ProPublica..."Investigative organization"? Oh, LOL, you mean the "liberal non-profit" group that received and then published the illegal leaks of documents (from the applications of 31 conservative groups) from the leftist Democratic partisans at the IRS who were politically targeting the opposition in their IRS Obama re-election effort.

The IRS people (criminals) involved have had to resign (er, were fired), but ProPublica was just doing God's work (eh?).... and keeps on getting unquestioned hero treatment on the Brian Lehrer Show.

(http://www.propublica.org/article/irs-office-that-targeted-tea-party-also-disclosed-confidential-docs)
(http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/federal-eye/wp/2013/05/14/irs-released-confidential-info-on-conservative-groups-to-propublica/)
(http://dailycaller.com/2013/05/14/irs-sent-confidential-info-on-conservatives-to-liberal-nonprofit-propublica/)

Jul. 01 2013 10:55 AM

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