By Jane Bowden
Imagine sitting in the library every day studying your textbooks from cover to cover, taking out thousands of dollars in student loans and spending four to six years working toward your education, only to find out that the job of your dreams has a catch — you’ll work 40-hour weeks without getting a paycheck.
That’s exactly what unpaid internships are like.
This past summer, I was a copywriting intern for a marketing company that was located about 25 minutes from my hometown. As a journalism and professional writing major, I was thrilled to have an internship that was close enough to home where I’d only be spending money on gas for my car rather than a daily train ticket to New York City.
However, what I wasn’t as thrilled about was that for the next three months, I’d be working a total of 196 hours with zero compensation other than another line to add on my resume. I didn’t find it fair — and still don’t — that I’d be putting in as much effort as a paid worker but wouldn’t reap the benefits. No paycheck. Just a pat on the back.
“But Jane, interns get paid in experience.”
Well, experience can’t pay for the gas I used while driving to and from my internship, experience can’t pay for the daily parking fee that totaled about $200 by the end of the summer and experience certainly can’t pay for the painful backaches, eye strain and hand cramps I got from typing on a computer all day.
Luckily for me, I was able to balance my internship with my part-time retail job, and I managed to save up enough money that I could use for grocery shopping, paying rent and more for this school year.
But what about the students who can’t do that? What about the students who have to commute more than an hour to their internship? What option do they have?
If employers can’t afford to pay their interns, then they shouldn’t be hiring them in the first place. It’s that simple.