The Problem with Internships…

So after a week here on the east coast, I finally had some semblance of job-hunting action today in Manhattan.  An interview for an internship.  The internship was for a non-profit organization that I wasn’t completely familiar with, but its main goals of fighting poverty and AIDS internationally seemed right up my alley.  I scoped out the location yesterday; not too shabby.  The building, which I later discovered hosts several UN committees and non-profit organizations, was across the street from the United Nations (one of my several dream jobs).

I went back today for my interview and was feeling pretty good about myself.  I wore a nice collared shirt, slacks, boots, and toted around my spiffy UCSB resumé portfolio that came as a gift for graduating tour guides earlier this year.  I certainly looked the part, and didn’t feel so much like a tourist as I traveled the several blocks from Grand Central station along with all the other business attired professionals.

However, the passersby that I noticed wearing the more expensive suits and the higher heels were probably not headed to interviews for unpaid internships at very small non-profit organizations like I was, as I came to find out.  The office I entered was bare, as they had recently relocated, and the staff was sparse.  I had a very nice talk with the Director of Communications, who repeatedly reminded me that the internship wasn’t so much of an internship as it was a volunteer position, since it’s unpaid.  She told me about the organization and what she would need from a Communications/Outreach “volunteer“.  She did most of the talking.  After she asked if I would like the position, I told her that I needed some time to think about it, since I’m in the process of deciding whether or not to relocate to New York…and moving across the country on the promise of a 2 day/week unpaid internship isn’t exactly what I’d consider a sound decision.

I spoke on the phone recently with a friend of a family friend who gave me some advice about my job search.  He works in the Washington, DC area and when I told him I had been struggling finding an entry level job and had shifted my search to internships, he said (more or less), “Don’t settle for a job that doesn’t pay.  Paid jobs are out there!  You are talented and you deserve to be paid for those talents.”  I started thinking about that right after I was done with my “interview”.

Internships are, ideally, for students.  The fact that so many companies and organizations have begun to hire more and more unpaid interns out of college to do the jobs that entry-level workers used to do flat out sucks.  College isn’t easy.  It’s expensive, and stressful, and eye opening, and I’d even assert that a lot of students learn more in one semester than they ever did in high school.  I know I certainly had a few quarters at UCSB that felt like it.  Having a college degree may be more common now than it was in the previous century, but it’s still an accomplishment, dammit! So why are we, as college graduates, now being relegated to the bottom of the barrel?  The obvious answer, I’m guessing, involves the state of our economy.  Another response could be that college graduates are so eager nowadays that most of us don’t care.

As lovely as it’s been to visit New York & Connecticut in this beautiful autumn weather, I don’t think I love it enough to stay just because of the promise of having a volunteer position that “could look good on a resume!”  My interview today was both literally and figuratively across the street from the UN.  I need to find my job at the UN itself, so to speak. I’m going to hold out for my big break.  Because, as L’Oreal would say, I’m worth it! And as I myself would say: I’ve earned it.

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