October 23, 2014

The Facts: Paid Internships are Critical to Your Career Success

For college students, getting experience is absolutely essential to career success.   Working teaches you the basics: show up on time, have a good attitude, and do your best work every single day.  You also learn commitment, how to meet expectations, and appropriate work place behavior.   It is about conforming to the expectations of someone who is paying you to be there and delivering your best – your expertise, and your talent.

Employers look much more favorably on candidates who have paid work experience than those who do not. 

Billionaire, Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks, was looking for talent in 2009. He ranted on his blog about having to pay interns when he wanted them for free…
    "This summer, in response to the changing sports media landscape, I wanted to create a “media pool” for the Mavs.  
Cuban needed people who knew social media really well (think young talent) that they could:
    “acquire video, write game reports, track stats, do interviews, interact with fans”…
All for free…

According to Cuban,  

    “I wanted to assemble a group of unpaid interns” … “One silver lining of a “great recession” … is that there are a lot of incredibly talented people without jobs, or who have lost their jobs.  I thought we could assemble a talented group who would enjoy the internships and could also gain valuable experience to add to their resumes.”  
Unpaid!!!  This from a billionaire… Perhaps he should give away all of his wealth… Equally absurd… (Thinking out loud - maybe not…)

In 2013 the National Association of Colleges and Employers conducted a survey of new graduates and issued a report on the value of paid versus unpaid internships. 
    “Among 2013 graduates who had applied for a job, those who took part in paid internships enjoyed a distinct advantage over their peers who undertook an unpaid experience or who didn’t do an internship.”
According to NACE, 63.1 percent of paid interns received at least one job offer while only 37 percent of unpaid interns got job offers,
    “that’s not much better than results for those with no internship—35.2 percent received at least one job offer.”
According to the Wage and Hour Division of the US Department of Labor fact sheet:
    "If an employer uses interns as substitutes for regular workers or to augment its existing workforce during specific time periods, these interns should be paid at least the minimum wage and overtime compensation for hours worked over forty in a workweek. If the employer would have hired additional employees or required existing staff to work additional hours had the interns not performed the work, then the interns will be viewed as employees and entitled compensation under the FLSA. Conversely, if the employer is providing job shadowing opportunities that allow an intern to learn certain functions under the close and constant supervision of regular employees, but the intern performs no or minimal work, the activity is more likely to be viewed as a bona fide education experience. On the other hand, if the intern receives the same level of supervision as the employer’s regular workforce, this would suggest an employment relationship, rather than training." 
Why is getting paid so important? Your internship jobs set you up for your first career job. The salary you are paid after finishing college frequently sets the tone for your entire career.

According to NACE, starting salary for paid interns was significantly higher than other job applicants.
    “The median starting salary for new grads (any major) with paid internship experience is $51,930—far outdistancing their counterparts with an unpaid internship ($35,721) or no internship experience ($37,087).” “This is the third consecutive year that NACE’s annual student survey has captured internship data for paid and unpaid interns; in each survey, paid interns exceeded their peers in job offers and starting salaries.” Note: All data are for bachelor’s degree level graduating seniors who reported applying for a job before graduation. 
Every time your salary is computed for a raise and every time you are considered for a promotion your job titles and salary history are used to come up with a decision on whether you should be hired, promoted, or receive a raise as well as how much that raise should be.

What you are paid determines both how you will live and your potential career growth over time. In this culture your career is a huge part of your identity. Getting a competitive salary is an equity issue. Set your standard. Figure out what you are worth. If you undervalue yourself other people will undervalue you. You are the person who is in control of your value.