Internships are a really integral part of someone’s career. It’s where everything (potentially) begins. Internships vary, depending on the field, age of the intern and work requirement. Some internships are paid, some are not. Which is fair only to the degree when you properly compare all the requisites and more, as mentioned above. It is extremely important to dig into the deep technicalities here, because let’s face it, some internships require a lot more hard work and time than others. But they’re not necessarily rewarded as such. That is quite unfair to the intern.
The intern is your average teenager or young adult. They could be 15 or even 25. This age group is a vital one, not just for the economy but for society as a whole. The grooming, nurturing and development in the workspace will be massive during this period. So it is vital that it happens in the proper sense. ‘Coffee errand’ internships exist, sponsored ones do too, and they may not necessarily be reward worthy in the sense that companies cannot be expected to pay these interns, but there are rigorous and time consuming internships, where more often than not college students spend a lot of time working in a field, for a company and not get paid a dime.
It is extremely important for companies, especially big, well established ones to make internships paid as a norm. It is important to recognize work in it’s full sense. Unpaid internships can often become a reason why the intern may not work up to their full potential knowing it isn’t contributing materially in any way. And the world we occupy today, is a precariously materialistic one. It’s cardinal to keep that in mind.
A friend of mine, keeping them anonymous here, recounted an incident of theirs interning for a prestigious magazine where the name of the magazine was enough to get them started in journalism at full speed. The magazine is a reputed one, but their experience was far from it.
My friend was giddy with excitement when they received the news that they got this break. They began the internship, knowing fully well that it’s unpaid but happy about the prospect of working in such a big magazine. It started off fine, in fact, they were quite happy and settling in. But soon enough, things didn’t sit well with the chief editor and they were very uncomfortable working under their seniors due to the behavior and environment of the workplace. My friend was being made to write articles which were far from what they’d expected considering the quality of content at a magazine of such repute. They were disappointed and drained. And they just could not continue any further. But questioning the seniors was a devastating thought as the editor wasn’t exactly approachable. My friend decided to quit 2 weeks in advance and gave an extremely valid reason to them for it too, since mental health is never considered reason enough in such situations. They claimed they had some serious family emergency out of town and had to travel there with their parents immediately. The company responded initially to their plea but suddenly stopped replying and never gave them a letter of experience.
It’s extremely unprofessional for a magazine, big or small, to behave this way. Not everything works out the way we expect it to, always. But it’s important to understand that, even if it’s for an intern. And if the intern isn’t even being paid for what they’re doing, the least that could be done is that their work (of a month) could be acknowledged in a letter of experience. This is careless, and exploitative behavior. It is also extremely unethical to expect someone to work, and work hard, and not get any compensation for it.
It’s time companies and organizations rethink their policies on internships because if you’re getting work done and the person’s calibre deserves it, they ought to be remunerated for it!