THE VALUE OF AN OPPORTUNITY
Alicia Jaimes | Lifestyles Editor
As graduation arrives, so does the usual argument I hear about paid internships versus unpaid internships.
This argument can be a little frustrating for me to hear because, yes, although many students believe they should be paid for the work they do, I don’t think that it’s a necessity.
Graduating this spring, I was fortunate enough to have an internship the summer before my senior year. I interned with my hometown’s online publication. It was small press, and because of this, many of the writers were there on a volunteer basis. This didn’t matter to me because when I sat down with my future editor, I knew I wanted to be a part of what they were about, no matter the cost. This publication was built for my hometown and being able to feature my town while gaining valuable skills was enough for me.
I know I’ve heard many students on campus, and even some professors, argue that it isn’t right to be taken advantage of.
“If you work, you should be paid,” they say.
While I agree that, if the company can afford it, interns should be paid because they are doing a substantial amount of work, I don’t believe it applies in all cases.
The company I worked for couldn’t afford to pay me because they were just starting out. Only a few years old, they were still finding their footing. Though I wasn’t paid in the traditional sense, I feel I was paid in opportunities. Because although they were a small company, it’s the fact that they were a small company that I was able to practice writing for every section they have. Though I normally am lifestyles topic-oriented, I was able to practice my photography, news writing and even took a stab at a few sports articles.
On top of the opportunity to practice various types of writing, my input was valued at this company and many of my ideas were considered. I was able to write my own advice column for them and suggest different topics we could cover to feature more community members. This was my chance to voice my opinions and get out of my comfort zone. Also, since the publication was so small, I was able to make connections with the other writers to the point where we all knew each other by the end. and we still keep in touch. This is something I feel can be looked over when working for a bigger company, even if you get paid.
I understand that some students need to make money to support themselves. If that’s not a requirement for you, then you have the privilege to choose wisely. Be sure to choose the internship you think you’ll get the most opportunity from, not the one you’ll get the most money.
I had the chance to interview for a paid internship in Grand Rapids, and ultimately turned it down because the internship in my hometown was more in line with where I’m trying to go after graduation.
Yes, holding a second job to make money that summer was stressful; however, I wouldn’t have chosen it any other way.
ABSOLUTELY, THEY SHOULD
Megan Lewton | Editor in Chief
I believe interns should be paid.
Let me preface this by saying I have been an unpaid intern, so I know what it’s like. I was a senior in high school when I interned at a broadcast news station pro bono. And honestly, I loved it. I learned a lot and gained experience I later added to my resume and portfolio.
I didn’t really worry about getting paid for the internship then.
However, I was in high school then.
At the time, I lived full time with my parents. They provided me with groceries and clothing, as well as the abundance of gas required to make the 30-minute commute there and back three times weekly. I only needed money for anything additional I wanted, and I earned some extra cash by working part time at a fried chicken place. I had few expenses, and between both of the jobs I ended up working maybe 25 hours a week max.
As a college student, that is no longer what internships are like. We are up against so much more. Now, when accepting an internship (which most programs require before graduation, by the way), applicants must consider how the internship will support them while they have it. Will they be able to buy groceries and pay their bills? Can they relocate, if necessary, and pay monthly rent? Will they have any extra funds to maintain a healthy social life?
I am not arguing that internships aren’t incredibly valuable. A good internship will provide a student with so much knowledge and experience in their field, and it may help open new doors.
However, no matter how much a person is learning at an internship, at the end of the day they will still have to pay costs of living. With an unpaid internship, that is basically impossible to do. Many internships require their interns to work 40 hours a week, or even contribute some work on the weekends. With such a busy schedule, it’s not likely these workers can accept another job to help fill their wallets. Instead, they must save up as much money as possible prior to the internship and still be overwhelmed, surviving on ramen noodles and worrying about how they will pay for utilities.
It really would not cost that much for a company to pay the handful of interns they hire every season. After all, many interns do a lot of work for the organization and help to improve their operations. For many — myself included — minimum wage is enough. The students might have to manage their money a little bit to make ends meet, but at least it’s something.
Interns should not be hired as free labor, especially because many do not have a choice but to accept an internship to earn their degree. A person cannot work for a company for three months without pay and still be able to keep a roof over their head and food in their stomach. It is just not feasible.
I believe interns should be paid. It doesn’t have to be a lot, but it should at least be something. I cannot argue that the experience isn’t cherished, but I can argue that it does not pay the bills.