My friend Traci has a marvelous post up on her blog about the challenges facing the fresh crop of college graduates, An Open Letter to ‘Generation X.’ She writes:
“Stop offering unpaid internships and ‘entry-level’ positions that require at least two years of experience. Stop hiring twentysomethings to fetch your coffee and Xerox pages for you. Give us a chance to learn. Give us a chance to grow. Don’t toss us to the curb after we give you our all as interns.
Take a risk on the youth, and if we manage to fall into the stereotype you think we are–entitled, spoiled, lazy–then by all means fire us. But don’t not open your doors.
We didn’t go to college and invest in a future to be told we’re not good enough.”
This rang very true to me, enmeshed as I am in the disheartening hunt for full-time employment. All too often, I’ve visited the career website of a company I admire, rejoiced to see a section for “Recent Graduates,” and then discovered that they offer nothing but unpaid internships. I’ve combed through reams of interesting postings tagged as “entry-level,” only to find that I meet all of the qualifications except the first on their list: “two years of experience in [extremely specific field].” Who knew that experience in the muskrat belittlement management industry could be so vital?
In the last three months, there has been a spate of interesting articles about the legality of unpaid internships. For an internship to be unpaid and legal, there are six federal criteria that must be met by the employer; for instance, the training must be similar to what an intern would learn at a vocational school, and the employer must not gain immediate advantage from the intern’s activities. If these are not met, then it is illegal for the internship to be unpaid. Nonetheless, unpaid drudge-work internships are common and sought-after, and many interns are reluctant to remark on negative conditions in order to avoid burning bridges within their industry. This aspect of the system is broken, but it is nonetheless the prevalent system.
With my student loan payments already begun, I’ve looked at a few in-state internships with companies I idolize, but mostly I’ve been stalking the wild full-time job. I know that I am competent and intelligent. I just dearly hope that the people reading my resume will give me the chance.