Dump that internship

Image of Intern Nation: How to Earn Nothing and Learn Little in the Brave New Economy
Author: Ross Perlin
Publisher: Verso (2012)
Binding: Paperback, 286 pages

Tess Vigeland: Last week, we spent some time talking about internships. You'll remember I was an utter failure at mine. And the self-proclaimed "Intern Queen" Lauren Berger told us your resume is incomplete without at least two summer internships on it.

But commentator Ross Perlin hopes college students will reconsider spending the summer in a cubicle, working for free.


Ross Perlin: You can do it: Dump the internship. Step away from the desk. That's right, you heard me. Ditch the coffee. Forget about the paper jam. When you tell your boss, be polite but firm. Remember, they're not paying you. In fact, they may not even remember your name.

I know how hard you fought to land it in the first place, so I'm not taking this lightly. Working for free, after all, means paying to work, because rent, food, transportation, and the rest aren't suddenly free as soon as you flash your intern badge.

Maybe you've raised money from your whole extended family, you're tending bar till midnight, you doubled down on your student debt, all so that you could do this internship. Sure, it will look great on paper, but let's face it, you already added it to your resume. You've been there a couple weeks already, so why prolong the pain?

Studies show that unpaid interns experienced no advantage in the job market and no higher starting salary as a result of all their free labor. In fact, American companies save $2 billion every year from interns working for free. Good intentions about educating, training, mentoring and recruiting interns are largely getting lost in the shuffle.

There's good reason why traditional summer jobs like lifeguarding, scooping ice cream and being a camp counselor have a nice, nostalgic sound to them -- they have real value.

All kinds of businesses, from theme parks to rental car companies to restaurants to fish canneries, are at their busiest during the summer and need extra help. You might be surprised by how much you can learn from these "menial" jobs: Being outside, having real responsibilities squarely on your shoulders, working with cool people from all sorts of different backgrounds -- and not least, earning money. If potential future employers don't see the value in that -- and a lot of them will -- they might not be people you want to work for anyway.

So, I repeat: Dump the internship. Go out into the world and have an awesome, honest-to-goodness, old school summer.


Vigeland: Ross Perlin lives in Brooklyn. He's the author of "Intern Nation."

About the author

Ross Perlin is a writer based in Brooklyn, N.Y.
Image of Intern Nation: How to Earn Nothing and Learn Little in the Brave New Economy
Author: Ross Perlin
Publisher: Verso (2012)
Binding: Paperback, 286 pages

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