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Could Death of Internships Hurt Grads’ Careers?

Posted by | April 10, 2015 | Advice, Career, Internship

Via LinkedIn : This week, Conde Nast announced it was settling a lawsuit brought against the company this past June by two former interns. Four months after the two interns sued for being paid below minimum wage, the magazine also announced the end of their internship program.

Great Opportunities Gone Forever? Or, Workplace Slavery Abolished?

As someone who has offered internships in the past, I know how mutually beneficial the arrangement can be. The students gained valuable experience, and I got some much-needed help during the start-up stage of my business. Some of my interns even became the very first employees of my company. I know the interns found the experience useful too. I’m still in touch with many of them today. They didn’t run for coffee or make copies. Instead, they got to roll up their sleeves and contribute to meaningful projects that helped them accelerate their professional experience.

However, I’ve also heard many stories from former interns of other companies who suffered through what they believed were horrific internships, quite a few at prestigious firms. They felt like workplace slaves and seriously questioned if having the company’s name on their resume would ever be worth what they endured. A “Devil Wears Prada” type of experience. And, that leads to my question…

Will high-profile cases, like the Conde Nast incident, kill more internships?

And, more importantly?

If companies stop offering internships out of lawsuit fears, how will young people get the work experience they need to accelerate their careers?

While I don’t want to see young people being taken advantage of, I also know plenty of them aren’t familiar with the professional work environment. Less than 30% of high school and college students ever have a job in a professional setting (i.e. internship) before they graduate from college. If internships become even more scarce, how will these new professionals get the experience they need to be successful in the workplace?

Have You Ever Trained A Young Person? Not As Easy As You Think.

I’m a huge fan of working with students and recent grads. But, I’d be a liar if I didn’t say it comes with some challenges. As a busy business owner, taking time out of my day to train an inexperienced worker can be stressful and rewarding – all at the same time. I want these young people to become a valuable asset to the team so they can feel successful. But, there are times when you have so much work and not enough hours in the day that you think, “Gosh, it would be so much easier to hire someone who already knows what I’m talking about.”

Then, There’s The Ungrateful Ones Who Ruin It For All The Rest

I’ve been lucky enough not to hire any students that fall into this category. But, I have met some students who clearly are only doing the internship with a company because someone told them it was a good idea. Their lack of effort and enthusiasm for the experience makes me want to call their manager and say, “You’re wasting your time with that one.” These are the students that make employers decide to skip hiring interns all together. It’s just not worth putting up with the headache.

Want A Good Internship In The Future? You’ll Have To Pitch Yourself

I think we are going to see internships continue to decline. In their place, let’s hope more companies will develop entry-level training programs that graduates can start out in and get paid a decent wage while developing basic professional skills. As the talent market tightens due to the retirement of the Baby Boomers, this will most likely happen. However, only larger companies with big budgets for talent acquisition will be able to implement such programs.

What if you want to work for a smaller firm?

For those young people who recognize the real value of a hands-on internship, they’ll find it necessary to pitch themselves directly to employers. They’ll have to knock on doors and volunteer themselves. They’ll have to showcase a good personality, an outgoing nature, and an understanding of what the company does. In short, they’ll have to sell themselves if they want to convince employers having an intern is worth the investment of its time and money. (Here’s more detail on this process and how it can be the #1 way to power up a job search.)

The Sad Reality For Many Future Grads…

Sadly, I’m not sure many students will do that. Instead, they’ll graduate, get out into the real world, and find all the jobs they want require work experience – the kind they could have gotten from an internship while in school. The kind of internships that are definitely hard work, but earn you respect from employers when you graduate.

What’s Your Company’s Position On Internships?

I’d love to hear from those of you who work at companies that have internships, and the ones that don’t. Why does your company choose to invest in interns? Or, why does it avoid offering them?

Please share your thoughts in the comments below!

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