Packed with pamphlets and our increasingly popular “Pay Your Interns” buttons, on September 6th, 2012, the ILR team set out to hit the grounds of the NYU Kimmel Center, host of their Fall 2012 Job & Internship Fair. Stationed strategically outside the building, we found ourselves encountering a diverse array of responses towards our efforts. Our goal wasn’t necessarily to stop folks from taking on an unpaid internship, but to simply raise awareness about rights, regulations, and resources related to the issue. And well, being as this was our first-ever outreach event targeted specifically towards students, we were nervous, too. So…how did people react to our presence?
“Thanks, but this is the only way to get a real job! There’s no point in your work!”
Caution and irritation. What they forgot was that, according to one of the only known U.S. studies on this matter, unpaid internships lead to fewer job offers than paid internships .
“Yeah, I agree it’s messed up…but what else can we do?”
Helplessness. A majority agreed it was unfair, but just saw no other alternative or way around it. International students seemed to be the most interested, expressing that, other than an on-campus job, this was the only other option they could explore for job prospects (as instructued by the school).
“Sure it’s unfair, but it offers so much opportunity! I’m excited to learn something new!”
Perhaps it offers opportunity, but what kind, and at what expense? Will you be doing coffee errands, or learning how to write policy briefs? Do you live around the area you’re applying to, or will you have to find housing? How *guaranteed* are you to get connections, and a job? Some students stated that NYU compensates for unpaid internships, and/or receive credit. Wait a minute…
- If you are getting credit, you are paying your college for your unpaid internship.
- If your college is paying for it, they are simply taking the load off employers who do not want to pay you entry-level salary.
It is also very well possible that those who can afford housing and other expenses in an unpaid internship might just possess a class advantage over those who cannot afford such expenses.
“YES! I’ve had [or known someone] with a bad experience. How can I get involved?”
Need we say more? =)
Regardless, many people seemed open to share their stories, be they fair attendees, or strangers on the street. We learned a lot from a ton of people, and we can’t wait for our next adventure! If you or anyone you know is heading out to another internship fair in the NYC metropolitan area, please contact us! Or, if you have a story, resources, or similar efforts you’d like to share, we’d love to hear from you.