Opinion | Students should pay attention to unpaid internship legalities
Published: Thursday, March 21, 2013
Updated: Thursday, March 21, 2013 23:03
By definition, an internship is intended to benefit the student because, in the end, they are the ones who need the experience the most, not the organization that hired them. We all know the job market is extremely competitive, for most of us anyways, leading many students to believe it is the only way they can land their dream job, or any job for that matter, is to work for free as an unpaid intern.
Although, what many students do not realize is that there are regulations on unpaid internships set by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) and these laws are broken every day by countless organizations. It is the student’s responsibility to be their own advocate when considering an internship, paid or unpaid.
The editorial board of The Miami Student realizes Miami University cares about their students’ success, even beyond graduation. Miami even informs us they are particularly strict on enforcing NACE regulations when choosing whether or not to sponsor an unpaid internship. Regardless, some companies have slipped through the cracks and have taken full advantage of the free labor that is the college undergraduate.
Many of us over-eager college students rationalize working for free by saying, “I’m getting experience,” or “This will really enhance my résumé,” but where’s the proof?
The difference between job-offers for students with internships and students without are hardly noticeable. Many Miami students place such a high importance on landing that perfect internship that they will work for free when they know they cannot afford to, or even pay to intern in some situations. But who can blame them? After all, Career Services floods our inbox with countless promotional emails for internships and co-op opportunities. We live in a society that forces us to think in a way that, without an internship, we’ll never get that job.
We’re not saying an unpaid internship won’t help you land a job, but there is a line that must be drawn when working for free. Not only are unpaid internships an expense that many college students cannot afford, but even some paid internships end up paying next to nothing, and when we take into account living expenses and time that could be spent working someplace else, sometimes it may not pay off in the long run after all.
In many other countries, unpaid internships are unheard of and unacceptable. In the U.S., regulations regarding unpaid internships have not been revised since the 1940’s. Just a few months ago, a handful of past-unpaid interns sued Disney regarding wage law issues. Even organizations that promise a job after an unpaid internship have been called out for refusing to hire interns after their term and simply replacing them with another batch of unpaid interns.
We understand students want the experience, but they need to do research and know exactly what they are getting themselves into and it is a necessity for students to know their rights as an intern. If they end up in a situation that seems unfair, students can’t be afraid to stand up for themselves, even if it does mean loosing a reference. But in the end, we all just want to get paid!