You spend hours each week slaving away for months at a time. You feel your stomach growl and your head ache with frustration. The work is strenuous and the pay is nonexistent. You think of the impressive two inches you’ll soon be able to boast on your resume and tell yourself it’s worth it. But is it, really?
A recent student advising survey found that roughly 85 percent of students consider having an internship either important or very important for their career. Only 40 percent, however, had actually interned somewhere.
In many ways, having an internship is the golden ticket into that looming grey area of our futures known as “the workforce.” But that ticket comes at a price.
Interns are often pushed to the bottom of the corporate food chain. This is especially true for unpaid interns — estimates for this eager workforce range from 500,000 to 1,000,000 every year.
Unpaid positions marginalize low-income students, making way for only those students who can afford to work for free. The unwaged thirty to forty hours a week of a full-time internship allows little room for a second paid job.
But sometimes, this isn’t a problem. For the fortunate students whose parents offer financial support for them to live in New York, Los Angeles or Chicago, the $0.00 salary is acceptable.
Kristin Streaker, a fourth-year advertising major at UF, spent a summer interning in New York, but there was no way she could’ve done it for free. It’s New York — no one lives there for free.
Streaker interned at Elle Magazine and fortunately for her, she was paid for her hard work.
“While in New York, I met many unpaid interns who work endless hours and hold second jobs. It can be hard,” she said.
In journalism, it’s difficult to come across a paid internship position. The fashion industry is even tougher. New York Fashion Week, in particular, is notorious for their use of interns’ unpaid and eager labor.
Gainesville holds its own Fashion Week in the springtime, “employing” more than forty interns a season, all of whom work for free.
Because most of their money is generated from sponsorships, they work on a tight budget. Instead, they offer many opportunities in position advancement.
The interns said the experience and networking were worth it. After all, this is what an internship is for.
“I’d rather do something I that love, even if it is unpaid,” said Jennie Clark. Clark started out as part of Gainesville Fashion Week’s fleet of unpaid interns and is now an assistant producer for the event.
“Experience is one of the most important — if not the most important — thing to have for your future career,” she said.
But while the Gainesville Fashion Week interns are not paid, this isn’t New York. Rent isn’t pushing $1,000 a month and your [non-existant] metro card won’t run your wallet dry. These interns are more able to afford wageless work because they’re already living and studying here in Gainesville.
Students fantasize about the bragging rights, the possible recommendation letter and the experience they’ll gain. And these are certainly all in reach, just only to the students — or the students’ parents — who can afford it. For the rest of us, best start scouting for that second or third part-time job.