Internships are critical to excel in the professional world. In fact, many companies are not keen on hiring graduates if internships aren’t included on their resume. However, several internships are unpaid which creates complications for college students.
“I work ten hours at the local synagogue along with classes and all of my other responsibilies, my internship creates a burden on my week every week,” says Simon Stratford, a senior Michigan State student. Stratford spends his weeks as an intern for Hillel, a Jewish programming facility on campus.
Like Stratford, many students find it challenging balancing an unpaid internship with a paid job and school work. However, cutting back on internship hours might be detrimental when it comes time to find a job.
Another growing issue: the useless “busy” work that many internships provide for participants. For MSU advertising student Arianna Nonahal, fetching the mail and going on coffee runs accounted for the bulk of her time.
Under the Fair Labor Standards Act, internships must fit six criteria to be considered legal:
(Info from: http://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/whdfs71.htm)
- The internship, even though it includes actual operation of the facilities of the employer, is similar to training which would be given in an educational environment;
- The internship experience is for the benefit of the intern;
- The intern does not displace regular employees, but works under close supervision of existing staff;
- The employer that provides the training derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the intern; and on occasion its operations may actually be impeded;
- The intern is not necessarily entitled to a job at the conclusion of the internship; and
- The employer and the intern understand that the intern is not entitled to wages for the time spent in the internship.
Bill Morgan, Experiential Learning & Internships at State Coordinator, says that getting coffee for your boss might not be illegal because it is helping out the greater good of the employees, something that would be done anyway and is not abusive to the intern.
Morgan also suggests that interns need to be aggressive while on the job and not expect their boss to always provide the work.
“Bosses get busy and forget to provide their interns with enough work to keep them busy so they get bored and waste their time,” he says.
Experience has been proven to be essential when it comes to applying for a job.