Photo by Nick Loyless
We talked about unpaid internships back in 2011, and the topic generated a fair bit of chat in the comment thread. Here’s a question from a recent commentator.
“I worked at a social enterprise as an unpaid intern last winter and my friends all questioned why I would do an unpaid job. [...]
“The social enterprise, which is kind of between a normal company and an NGO, aims to hire a large amount of interns for a short-term continuous labour source. They only have several full-time workers. Do you think this plan is sustainable?”
The enterprise seems to be disguising volunteer work as an internship (all too common).
An internship is not where the intern does the work of a normal employee without getting paid.
It is where the employer devotes time to the individual intern so he or she can learn as much as possible about the chosen profession.
Too many companies either don’t know the difference, or don’t want to.
If you’re in an unpaid work placement that isn’t meeting expectations, and it’s not going to change no matter what you say to the employer, get out of there. You’re better than that.
Update: 17 June 2013
A United States court has ruled that unpaid internships where legitimate work is undertaken are illegal, on The Atlantic Wire.