Recently, there has been lots of buzz in the news and papers about us interns, and whether or not we should be paid. I have to say this discussion topic has come up in plenty of conversations in the last few weeks and has given me a lot to think about.
Should we be paid? What are the benefits of not being paid? If we aren’t getting paid, then should we be working 12-hour days? So many questions, so many opinions, and yet, who is the right person to answer them?
Being an intern that has gone the last seven months working 30-40+ hour weeks and receiving nothing more than four credits, it’s hard to side with the Anti Paying Interns side of the argument. However, I understand that if you’re getting school credit, that’s some company’s way of skirting around monetary payment, which is fair in some cases. I know other internships that offer to compensate their interns with a meal plan where their lunches are paid for (which, frankly, adds up to be not so shabby of a deal in my opinion). At Condé Nast, they offer their interns a $550 stipend. I think that, even though it may be small in comparison to what you’re spending, a small amount of money does make a difference.
The hardest part about the whole argument is that interns, especially ones who travel to New York City to intern, end up paying a lot of money to gain hands-on experience in their field of choice. For me, in the fashion industry, it’s hard not to come to NYC because it’s one of the fashion capitols of the world. And in magazines, the biggest publishing houses of magazines reside in Manhattan as well. For one summer, I’m spending money on rent, food, amenities like laundry, as well as paying per credit hour for my internship. It’s costing over $4,000 for me to gain experience at the Fashion Mag. This begs the question…is it worth it?
In my opinion, I could argue for either side. I wish I were being paid. And I understand that not everyone is able to come and do an internship in New York because there isn’t any sort of payment for meals, housing, etc. On one hand, it’s hard to work the hours I do for the mere name of the publication on my resume and no extra numbers in my bank account. On the other hand, I could have found a part-time job in Manhattan to make up for a non-paid internship. However, I think a middle solution between the two sides would be for a small stipend to be given to each intern (like Condé Nast does). I see how companies can’t afford to put all interns on salary but then they shouldn’t expect interns to work 12-hour days for them. I think that there needs to be a balance of give and take between both parties.
Though the Fashion Mag might not be paying me, I am gaining invaluable experience from them that it's worth spending my summer sprinting back and fourth from Starbucks. It’s the contacts and networking. It’s the experience of living in a big city on my own. It’s the fact that I am learning more in one summer about what I want to do for the rest of my life than any professor or classroom at college could teach me in one semester.
In some cases, it’s a fair trade. The company you work for gives you invaluable experience, contacts, and networking as well as a potential recommendation letter or employment with them when you’re done with college. In return, you give them your time and commitment and learn as much as possible. Even though it might not be a monetary compensation for the hours and hours you spend working, the experience really is invaluable.
Ah, such a tough argument! But at this time in intern history, an extremely valid one that requires multiple opinions and I need people to weigh in on this!! I’m always back and fourth, torn and flip-flopping between paid or not paid. What do you guys think? What is a good solution? Does your experience with the company make up for the lack of payment?
Can't wait to hear your guys' opinions!
Until next Monday,