Unpaid Internships : Boon or curse ?

Internships provide the most important period for job candidates because they offer the opportunity to gain useful professional skills and work experience. Internship makes candidates mature and prepare them for future work challenges. Information from a survey that was conducted in Holland showed that while 63% of those with paid internships had landed jobs before graduation, just 37% of students with unpaid internships were successful. There is no denying that internships are of extremely valuable to students for their smooth transition from college to the job market. Sometimes procuring an internship opportunity feels like a matter of life-and-death but forfeiting an income should certainly not be the price one should pay to gain experience. Are unpaid internships actually more harmful than what may be seen on the surface as a positive experience?

Most employees offer unpaid internship opportunities or pay interns below the minimum wage. The unpaid internships impact the affected persons negatively. Fields such as education, arts, social sciences, humanities, and health sciences are notorious for offering unpaid internships. Most people are okay with acquiring an internship that does not pay and focus on acquiring experience instead. However, such trends hamper the ability of people to negotiate their salaries in the future. For instance, those that endure unpaid internship when they obtain employment get starting salaries that are low compared to those that obtain paid internships. In some instances, those with no internship experiences are likely to be paid equal or even more salaries that those that endured an unpaid internship.

It is notable that the economy may not be very favourable to many organizations and that students may not feel bothered as long as they are getting valuable work experience. However, working as an intern without a salary has a negative impact on the economy since it promotes unpaid labour practices. It is estimated that most paid internships translate into full-time jobs while only 1% of the unpaid internships translate into jobs. As such, taking up unpaid internships reduce the chances of a person to be employed in an organization on a full-time basis. In the long run, these internships prove harmful for a candidate’s career. Employers are willing to let the unpaid interns go with the knowledge that their organizations will be able to acquire other unpaid interns. Unpaid internship ends up benefitting the employers since they are able to reduce their wages and thereby maximizing their profits to the detriment of the interns that have to embark on a tedious job search. Unpaid internship can be understood to mean employers that are determined to get something for nothing.

However, on the flip side there are also some advantages of an unpaid internship. The knowledge and skills required to be successful in the workplace is something that can’t be taught in any college or university. The college has its own pace, and schedules vary, but most professional environments have more rigid schedules, dress codes, and other policies. An unpaid internship gives a candidate the opportunity to experience the job environment first hand without the risks associated with a normal job. The top strategy when searching for a new job is also the connections made during the internship which prove to be handy later on in one’s career. Establishing strong connections during an internship can result in quality job leads when you graduate and valuable references when you apply for full-time positions. These connections made and the mentoring received can’t be found in a college classroom.

It’s better to find that a preferred career might not be a good fit for you during an internship than during your first months on a job after graduation. An entire professional field cannot be assessed from one internship, but if it doesn’t feel like a good fit, you have time to figure out why. Thus, giving candidates an opportunity to change their mind about their future prospects.

Working in an office with other professionals and clients helps in developing strong skills including communication, creativity and teamwork. Learning how to work with others who are difficult to work takes hand-on experience, as does learning how to avoid being the one who is difficult to work with thus helping in them be better dealers of conflict. The development of these interpersonal skills helps in the overall holistic development of an individual and make them a better person and prepares them to face the challenges that lie in the future.

Many organizations have adopted the unpaid internship approaches especially after the previous economic recession. Employers should not adopt a general attitude. it is important for the employees to understand that appreciation in terms of wages abet small can generate additional interest among the interns and increase productivity. These internships also offer a tremendous amount of development and experience to the candidates, and is that payment enough?

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