Recently, I came across this unbelievable story from Gawker about the New York Sun‘s incredible intern guidelines. (“Interns are expected to remain on the premises until given a ‘goodnight’ from [the editor to whom they report].” And: “Interns will not be admitted to the newsroom without a suit and tie—matching jacket & slacks, belt, white or blue shirt, necktie properly knotted, shoes polished.” Yes, to answer your question, this is an unpaid internship.)
It is when I read stories like this that I thank my lucky stars that I managed to work at five different internships between undergrad and grad school…& none of them were all that offensive.
As a veteran intern, I feel the need to defend the internship experience a little. I did actually do one unpaid internship, my first, at a non-profit organization. I liked it so much, I stayed on for the fall semester. For the record, all of my internships had business casual dress codes, which was good because as a poor college student, I owned exactly one suit. I never made coffee. I wasn’t above making copies or answering the phone, but I also wrote press releases picked up by the major newspaper in a top five media market in the US. I secured two donated media placements guaranteeing 26 million advertising impressions for a non-profit organization, & the successfully wrangled a printer willing to donate the $2,500 worth of printing to produce the ads (this took like two weeks to accomplish, but was so completely worth it when I did). I represented, wrote, & spoke for brands like Verizon Wireless, Auntie Anne’s Pretzels, Texas Instruments, Cisco, & Hyundai. I babysat reporters on the back of a media truck following Lance Armstrong as he rode around Austin with 6,500 of his fellow cancer survivors.
Internships can be fantastic learning experiences, great networking opportunities, & a way to get “real world” work experience on your resume before you graduate…if you get one of the many good ones. Yes, there are many New York Suns on there whose internships are a joke & mostly useless. (Another of the Sun‘s rules? “Interns who ask for a byline [for their work on an article] or who complain about a byline decision will be terminated.”) So how do you find a good one? Here’s five great places to look:
1.) Your School. Your college’s Career Services office will have a job bank on their Web site listing jobs & internships in your field. They’ll also often hold internship fairs where you can talk to local employers about opportunities at their companies. Talk to Career Services counselors about your potential internships, often they will have information about the experience from other students who interned there. Employers who get reported as bad experiences by many students are often blacklisted by schools.
3.) Idealist.org. There are many great opportunities to intern with non-profit organizations that you can find through Idealist.org. Because of non-profits tend to have limited resources, human & otherwise, there are often tremendous opportunities for interns to take on many responsibilities that would be handled by full-time personnel in for-profit companies.
4.) Internabroad.com & Volunteerinternational.org. Want to go abroad for the summer or a semester? Get some get great work experience while you’re at it. Search for an employer through these sites & don’t forget to check to see if you can get course credit from your school for your time there!
5.) Craigslist. It costs like a lot of money to post a job on Monster. It costs $25 to post on Craigslist. Thus, pretty much everyone posts on Craigslist. Yes, you will have to wade through tons of bad stuff to get to good postings, but you will find a lot of great employers advertising their great internships there too.
Check out this site for more internship search resources.
PS: The National Association of Colleges & Employers (NACE) reports that employers said they extended full-time job offers to nearly 70 percent of their interns in 2008. Forty-seven percent of employers said that they prefer hiring candidates for full-time positions who gained experience through an internship or co-op program. Proving that’s it’s definitely a good idea to get an internship or five while you’re still in school.
Just not at the Sun.