Internships are slowly becoming irrelevant
The sad truth is that internships have increasingly become less reliable for guaranteeing the future success of students.
Although, in a time of high unemployment for many of America’s young and resourceful, internships have quickly become the ready alternative to paid grunt work. For many companies, internships have become less of a way to bring in and evaluate future employees, as they have become a way to conscript a sizable portion of free or severely underpaid labor.
Don’t get me wrong, internships can be an avenue to greater things, and even a fruitful experience in their own right. Internships pretty much always look good on both college and job applications. They can provide interns the chance to see the skills and work ethic needed to pursue a particular career before they commit themselves to a particular path and, often, they do help interns gain contacts in a given industry or profession through proximity.
However, as they’ve grown in popularity (larger companies such as General Electric and Amazon have reported having to pull from a pool of several thousand each), students have come to see internships as a necessary step in gaining real employment, which frankly is not always true. By default, since interns lack experience, they are limited on what duties they can perform. This means that they often are forced to do basic tasks (i.e. shred papers, answer phones, make coffee, etc.). While this is indeed necessary work at any company, it’s usually the duty of low-paying secretarial work, not true “on-the-job experience” for say, students looking to potentially become doctors, lawyers or scientists.
In this sense though, companies often bring in interns under the guise of experience building, only to make them operate as temporary free labor. On top of this, many college graduates are coming to discover that internships, no matter how useful the experience provided can be, do not always guarantee future job opportunities.
According to Internships.com, an internship marketing group, roughly half of all interns are eventually offered paying positions by employers. This might not sound so bad, but the odds aren’t necessarily in your favor. Considering that many internships are treated with the same intensity as real jobs, with no pay, the ends often don’t compensate for the means.
And finally, there is the reality that many people just don’t have the time to commit to an intensive unpaid internship. Many people, especially older students going back to school, are already struggling to balance the demands of school and supporting themselves simultaneously. For these people, spending a good portion of their time essentially working for free just isn’t an option.
Truth be told, internships have and can be a great path for many students looking to move forward toward their career goals; however, especially in current times, their value is often overstated.