Merriam Webster defines an intern as a student or recent graduate who works for a period of time at a job in order to get experience. On an individual level, the meaning of an internship ranges from grunt work and the gaining of course credits to the gateway to one’s future career. An informal survey of my peers indicate that internships are great for getting homework done and getting to know the MBTA. Practical and theoretical definitions may vary, but every internship is subject to two absolutely constant variables; paid or unpaid.
Whether or not an employer offers their intern compensation is often determined by a company-specific policy or their respective field. Whereas finance-oriented interns typically receive some form of compensation, those who are pursuing a degree in media or arts-related studies aren’t quite as lucky. Still, many believe that interns in any field perform skilled labor and should therefore be rewarded with something of value (excluding the experience and resume-padding, of course). Media maven Condé Nast, whose publications include Vogue and Vanity Fair, recently ended its internship program due to a lawsuit by two former interns claiming they were paid below minimum wage for their summer jobs. Several other low-paid and unpaid interns in the media field have filed similar lawsuits in the last several years (Buckley 2013).
The internship food-chain is one that Lesley students know all too well. As a second-internship senior, I have experienced both sides of the paid/unpaid spectrum. Last year at this time I was an editorial intern at DigBoston (formerly The Weekly Dig), where I wrote and fact-checked a slew of articles for the free alternative publication. One of my supervisors went so far as to say I “curated” a November 2012 issue. Currently I’m a marketing intern at an accounting firm in Milton, where I write content for the firm’s blogs and research current and perspective clientele. Both internships offer their own set of pros and cons.
As a marketing intern, I often find that the work I do is dry and unfulfilling. However, I in turn am getting more familiar with the world of business operations and formal work environments. It signifies my switch to more practical thinking (at least about the future). Not to mention, knowing that I am on the payroll is a great carrot for this task-oriented donkey. Doing editorial work at the Dig, I felt encourage to exploit my full creative potential. Seeing my articles in print was great incentive, but committing so much time to unpaid assignments both in the office and at home was definitely put a strain on schoolwork and my part-time job on many occasions.
Switching from one industry to another introduced me to the once-mythical land of the paid internship. This awakening leads me to deduct that ultimately the monetary exchange for this type of work often boils down to corporate vs. cultural, an unfortunate ultimatum that many students must confront when investing in college and career goals. As it just so happens, communications happens to be a major broad enough to encompass possibilities to get into both domains.