Unpaid internships garner mixed reviews from Career and Employment Services

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aking money and gaining valuable work experience are subjects often prodding the minds of college students.  As the class of 2013 graduates and leaves Puget Sound behind, many of them are entering the work force or further educational institutions with internship or job experience already under their belts.  Whether it is paid or unpaid, internships are a great way to get experience in a career area of interest.

According to Career Employment Services’ Associate Director Alana Hentges, an internship is a “short-term, supervised experience,” but may be labeled as an internship by organizations for a multitude of reasons.  Often, jobs are mislabeled, so “it’s important for students to know what they’re looking for,” Hentges remarked.  “Recently, I saw an ‘internship’ posting where one of the job duties was cleaning the bathroom.  This is not an internship.”

Internships can pop up anywhere, so it is always important to foster meaningful relationships with people who may be hiring you one day.  CES stresses its relationship with organizations, and often “helps them understand that the student’s education is at the center of the internship, students contribute to the organization in a value-added, meaningful way, and the intern receives regular and ongoing supervision and mentoring.”  A good internship will be mutually beneficial to both the intern and the organization.

“I gained a better understanding of the complexities behind production of events,” said a senior who wished to remain anonymous.  “I gained skills in problem solving and handling potential crisis situations calmly.”  The student saw many ways in which her internship experience expanded beyond the workplace. “I was somewhat able to understand the reasons behind people’s personalities and behaviors with my psychology background,” she said.

Often, improperly categorized “internships” can be detrimental.  If students end up doing unpaid labor, they can also be paying for the academic credit they receive for the experience.  It is crucial when exploring work opportunities to consider your financial abilities and what you hope to gain from the experience.

“Each year we see a mix of paid and unpaid internship opportunities; typically about half are paid.  Whenever possible, CES advocates for paid internships on behalf of Puget Sound students,” Hentges said.

Paid internships are truly the pinnacle of college work experience: A student receives monetary compensation, valuable work experience and a resume boost.

“Regardless of whether the internship is paid or unpaid, it is important that students look for an internship that will provide them with career-related experience in a field of interest,” Hentges said.

Taking an internship in an unrelated field may be less valuable, in regards to future career opportunities.  Also, taking an internship for academic credit “creates a formal link between internship experience and classroom learning.”

Hentges reminds students that through CES and its affiliate organizations, they “have access to thousands of local, national and international internship listings.”  It also helps that the University is part of the Nationwide Internships Consortium, which is a group of national liberal arts schools that share internship listings.  All-around, CES is the most valuable resource on campus for job hunting, supplemented by the CES blogs.  CES can help students with resumes, cover letters and mock interviews.

“Through my internship,” said the senior, “I was provided a unique experience of working in the entertainment industry.  I was given a perspective most people aren’t privy to in normal life.  I had some very interesting, unforgettable experiences that I will probably never be able to replicate.”

 

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