There is an online article on the Time Moneyland blog that has gone viral amongst college students and professionals alike. ‘The Beginning of the End of the Unpaid Internship‘ by Josh Sanburn is stirring up a lot of controversy.
The article, which many say is one-sided, really draws attention to and puts a microscope over the ethics of unpaid internships. Sanburn focuses on class-action law suits that have been filed against many huge corporations over their unpaid internship practices, and while I do agree in some instances companies take advantage of their interns, I wouldn’t go on a full-fledged claim that unpaid internships are completely unethical.
I, for one, am about to start my third unpaid internship. While many might call me crazy for volunteering to work for free, I have been able to receive a combined total of 12 credits for my past internships. I personally don’t find classroom learning to be particularly productive in my PR classes, so the fact that I was able to gain experiential learning instead of classroom learning is hugely beneficial to me. 12 credits is a full semester’s worth of classes that I got to play around with and put my time in towards other things. Plus, the experience that I’ve gained as an intern has been extremely valuable.
I think when you take on multiple unpaid internships, like 5 or more, where it becomes a problem. Then it’s really just a confidence issue, in my opinion, or you’re probably not honest with yourself that you’re in the wrong career path.
For PR, unpaid internships are almost essential and they’re usually partially paid somehow. I find myself getting into an argument over the ethics of it all quite often because PR is such an experience-based field, how can you possibly tell someone they’re wrong for wanting experience that is vital to them getting a job?
What do you think of this argument? Do you think unpaid internships are ethical? Have you ever held an unpaid internship where you think you were treated unfairly?