Monday, August 10, 2009

Paying for Unpaid Positions

Today, I found myself particularly interested in a New York Times article about the challenges of attaining internships. “Unpaid Work, but They Pay for Privilege” reveals a frustrating situation faced by many college students today. It’s no secret that it’s not easy to get to get a job. The competition is vicious as graduates are put up against peers as well as laid-off employees for paying and nonpaying positions. The fact is if your resume isn’t remarkable, your interview skills aren’t flawless, and you don’t “know the right people”, you’re out of luck. This is the very reason parents are willing to doll out thousands of dollars for services to help their children secure internships.

One organization the article discusses is the University of Dreams. This company is the "largest and most visible player" in the industry and advertises:

“a guaranteed internship placement, eight weeks of summer housing, five meals a week, seminars and tours around New York City for $7,999.”

The money goes to the University of Dreams and middlemen involved in the process. The University of Dreams places 1,600 student interns in 13 different cities. Their staff knows the ins and outs of the business and because of their strong working relationships they know who to call where. The article goes on to discuss how the process is equally attractive to parents who want to secure the success of their child’s future, and employers who have recognized the benefit of using these middlemen to save them a lot of “time and hassle”. In the following Prendismo clip, Marissa Goodman discusses the importance of networking in helping secure a job.


"...people today don't want to waste their time. They want someone to vouch for them and it's a lot easier to get your foot in the door if you have a solid kind of referral from someone who works at the company." - Marissa Goodman, Steve and Barry's

This process of paying for an unpaid position may not only be confusing to many people, but educators and students also argue that these programs put many families at a disadvantage. Not everyone is able to afford to buy his or her internship position. As Eric Normington of the University of Dreams states, “Students don’t have problems finding internships, students have problems getting internships.” Despite their fairness, this is why services such as those provided by the University of Dreams are in such high demand. Internships provide experiences outside the classroom and they give graduates a competitive advantage. In the following Prendismo clip Alissa Livingston discusses the importance of internships.

"Internships are critical both for you in figuring out where your interests lie or your skills lie, but also it's more important because it will make you more competitive." - Alissa Livingston, Merchandise Planner, Ralph Lauren

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