Unpaid Interns Need to Shut the Hell Up

The system’s not unfair. Maybe you just suck.

Oh, look. The controversy of unpaid internships has come up again, with a federal judge ruling against Fox Searchlight in a case filed by unpaid interns who worked on the movie Black Swan. The Atlantic speculates that the “court ruling could end unpaid internships for good,” and Time has declared that it’s “the beginning of the end of unpaid internships.”

Some unpaid interns have been complaining about unpaid internships for as long as unpaid internships have existed. And as a former unpaid intern, I am here to tell you that they need to shut up.

I interned for Philadelphia magazine way back in 2002. I had recently left a job at Comcast, where I somehow got hired as a systems engineer, even though I had no idea what a systems engineer was or what I was supposed to do. I faked my way through it for about six months before they kicked me out the door, and I went on unemployment while I tried to figure out my life.

Journalism called out to me. The year before, even though I didn’t have any real writing experience or even a high school diploma (I dropped out of high school and then the University of Pennsylvania), I wound up writing this cover story for the Philadelphia Weekly.

I had happened upon some Philadelphia-related news in Haiti, of all places, where I was vacationing, and journalist Liz Spikol (now editor of Philly Mag’s Property) and I teamed up for the piece. The paper paid me $500, and Spikol and I won first place in the Keystone Press Awards for investigative reporting. Lynn Neary even interviewed me on NPR’s All Things Considered. Beginner’s luck, believe me.

With such a positive first experience in the journalism industry, and given that I had to do something productive with myself, I decided to take an unpaid internship at Philadelphia magazine. I fact-checked, I researched, and I wrote a few little items here and there. I probably made photocopies, sent faxes, and transcribed tapes, too. No one ever asked me to get coffee, but if they had, I certainly would have done it without griping.

Just as my unemployment was about to run out, meaning I had to give notice at the internship and get a real job, the magazine’s research editor announced she was leaving and recommended me to fill her place, which I did. A decade-plus and a few promotions later, I’m still here, supporting a family of four and having a blast while doing it.

I’m not the only success story to come out of a Philadelphia magazine unpaid internship. We usually have six interns per semester, and the better ones float to the top and wind up getting jobs when there are openings. Among the current editorial staff, the managing editor, assistant managing editor, editorial assistant, lifestyle editor, Philadelphia Wedding magazine editor, and assistant photo editor were all unpaid interns here. Now they get real paychecks.

Other former unpaid interns at the magazine who have gone on to do alright for themselves: Eliot Kaplan, who became editor-in-chief of the magazine and is now editorial director with Hearst Magazines; Max Potter, who was on staff at Philadelphia and GQ before taking the helm of Denver’s 5280 city magazine; Larry Platt, who edited Philadelphia and, most recently, the Daily News; Patrick Doyle, now executive editor at Boston magazine; and Lisa DePaulo, who went on to write for GQ, New York Magazine and Vanity Fair and who memorably profiled then-Mayor Ed Rendell in this 1994 story.

Of course, not everyone gets a job or winds up doing amazing things after an internship. In some cases, that’s just life. But in some cases–in many of them–it’s because the interns are incompetent, disengaged or unwilling to learn. Some of them don’t know how to act in a professional environment. On rare occasions, we’ve actually had to let interns go. You know you’ve screwed up royally if you’ve been asked to leave an unpaid internship.

An  internship can lead to great things, assuming that you’re smart, ambitious and, probably, a little bit lucky. (No doubt I’ve had my fair share of luck.) If I were one of those Black Swan interns, whose complaints included the fact that they had to assemble furniture and track purchase orders (the horror!), I would have finished that internship with a couple of key contacts who liked me (even if it was because I knew where to get the perfect latte) and, at the very least, the ability to throw an Oscar-winning movie onto my next resume.

But, no. These days, you ask an intern to put a chair together, and you wind up in Federal Court. I’m not saying that there shouldn’t be laws in place to stop companies from exploiting young workers. There should be, and there are. Heck, thanks to current laws, the internship I did at the magazine 11 years ago would likely be illegal today.

But these interns aren’t children. They’re not indigent laborers in some Third World sweatshop. They’re adults, and many of them privileged ones at that. It’s not protection that they need. They need a kick in the butt, a taste of the real world. But most of all, they need connections. They need jobs. And abolishing the longstanding tradition of the unpaid internship as a foot in the door to those jobs isn’t going to help one bit.

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  • Jonathan Valania

    Hear hear. My thoughts exactly. Paid?
    For what? What skills or experience do you bring to the table? Oh,
    mommy and daddy sent you to college where you drank beer and dicked
    around on Facebook and now you want to get paid for that? What you are
    getting from this internship is far more valuable than money: A free
    education about the way the real world works, how this industry works
    and how you might be able to find a paid position in said industry, all
    of which is far, far more useful than that college education that set
    mommy and daddy back 100K. Really, the only thing college is good for is
    teaching you critical thinking skills, but judging by the fact that you
    are demanding — suing no less — to be paid for work you are entirely
    unqualified to perform tells me you didn’t even learn that.

    • Evan C. Paul

      Are you working for a company? Then you should be paid. Period.

      Law prescribes that unpaid interns do not specifically contribute something to the company’s productivity. It is supposed to be a learning experience for them, not free labor. Screw any company that is willing to exploit desperate people like this.

    • Tahlya Chazak

      Maybe that’s what you did in college. Some of us are busting our asses paying our own way through college, working full time and attending classes full time and managing to pull off straight As because we get no sleep.

      That said, this lawsuit is absurd, and whining that they made you put furniture together and track purchase orders as an intern on a movie set is ridiculous. But saying that anyone who complains about unpaid internships is just whining and wants something for nothing is equally absurd.

    • Ryan Collerd

      How many unpaid interns do you have working for you right now?

  • Anne Johnson

    Anyone who works should be compensated, even if it’s only minimum wage. The minute someone is willing to do a job for free, there’s no need to pay anyone at all. This is a driving philosophy in journalism just now, so good luck with your happy career.

    • Ben Brennan

      If they aren’t willing to do it for free, they won’t get to do it. According to their resumes, they are not qualified to do any job that a company would spend money on, which means the company will then only hire college grads and people with experience.

  • Evan C. Paul

    I’m horrified that this writer would even deign to pull out the old “If they’re not as successful as me, it’s because they were lazy or unambitious” canard.

    Your success was partly due to your skills, and largely due to dumb freaking luck. Your luck would have been just as good had you been paid for your internship.

    Unpaid internships are supposed to happen only under extremely controlled circumstances. Shame on any business that exploits free labor.

    • Tahlya Chazak

      This.

  • Robert Nagel

    It’s always hard to appreciate where skill ends and luck begins. The reality is that there are some people who cannot hack it and there are some people who are not lucky. I think the best approach is to account for the fact that a percentage of success is based on luck, and therefore we determine a baseline off of which to operate. In this case, I think a baseline should be paid internships unless substantive, educational credits and structure (as determined by an accredited institution – A university, for instance) are in place.

  • Robert Knilands

    “Journalism called out to me.” This, plus the person’s defense of unpaid internships, sends one message: Education has failed this person.
    This person should seek a refund of his tuition.

    • Tahlya Chazak

      Not to mention, he wasn’t unpaid. He was unpaid by the internship itself, but he was living on unemployment and said himself that if they hadn’t offered him a paid position, he would have had to leave the internship to look for gainful employment elsewhere.

      Unpaid internships do offer valuable real world experience. Don’t get me wrong. But they’re not realistic for everyone.

  • Michael Bury

    I have a feeling I know whose smug ass is going to be up against the wall when the revolution starts.

    • Tahlya Chazak

      lol

  • ModerationMan

    I just read the above article and I respectfully disagree
    with your assertions. I’ll begin my
    rebuttal by starting at the end of your article and addressing your assertion
    that “abolishing the longstanding tradition of the unpaid internship as a foot
    in the door to those jobs isn’t going to help one bit.” Your “longstanding tradition” isn’t quite so
    longstanding. The first internships occurred
    in the 40’s, but the college coordinated unpaid internship as we know it today only
    really began in the 60’s and grew substantially in popularity amongst employers
    and their partner colleges in the 70’s and 80’s. Employers realized the benefits of free
    labor, and colleges realized the benefits of donations from those employers who
    now had healthier bottom lines. Both
    wished to save human related costs, as wells as the costs of federal and state labor
    law compliance.

    Prior to the rise of internships, the very old system of
    on-the-job learning was primarily through paid apprenticeships. The paid apprenticeship in the form we most
    recognize it today began in the 1800’s, but has been around in some form or
    other for ages. Apprenticeships began to
    be regulated by The National Apprenticeship Act of 1937. The Act stipulates that apprentices must be compensated
    as they are trained, with incremental raises commensurate with their increased
    ability to do the work. The Act, in conjunction
    with other labor laws, govern labor conditions, such as working hours, overtime
    pay, health and safety regulations, and so on.
    Registered paid apprenticeships under the Act can last anywhere from one
    to six years depending on the needs of the industry or employer. The Act requires apprentices be assigned a
    mentor. The Act stipulates that upon
    completion of an apprenticeship program you are awarded industry issued nationally
    certified credentials. It wasn’t until later
    that the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 had to be amended to add language in
    the form of 6 criteria regulating the use of unpaid interns due to a
    controversial Supreme Court decision in Walling v. Portland Terminal Co. in
    1947. The National Apprenticeship Act
    has more regulatory teeth than the 6 criteria in the amended FLSA. In
    2011, 87% of apprentices who completed their program got hired and were still
    employed 9 months after program completion.
    However, in 2012, only 69% of interns got hired when their internship
    was completed.

    When you say, “They’re adults, and many of them
    privileged ones at that,” you couldn’t be more correct. Employers moved toward an unpaid internship
    model because an apprenticeship program is expensive. Not only do employers have to pay their
    apprentices, but they must also comply with the regulations (which also add
    cost). In order to increase profits,
    employers systematically de-value the human beings doing their labor. While a paid apprentice can meet some or all of
    his financial obligations while learning on the job, an unpaid intern
    cannot. They must rely on some outside
    source of funding, potentially because they are independently wealthy, but usually
    by borrowing from family or adding onto their student loans. So people from lower economic brackets or who
    have higher financial responsibilities are systematically denied access to this
    type of “foot in the door” activity. At
    the completion of both programs, the apprentice is in a far better position to
    build his future than the typical unpaid intern who has usually accumulated unconscionable
    amounts of debt during his indenture. Because
    the former unpaid intern is saddled with debt in many cases, they will gladly
    take whatever little pay the employer decides to throw at them. When hired,
    former apprentices earn a mean $15.00/hour base rate of pay while former
    interns earn a mean $13.00/hour base rate of pay. And some publications suggest former intern’s
    post hire hourly rates are going down. So you’re correct that many need to be
    privileged economically in some way in order to afford the internship. You’re also correct that they are adults. As such, they deserve to be treated with the
    respect and dignity of any other human being through compensation for their
    labor.

    I’m not writing this to devalue your personal internship experiences. Your article, although subjective, reflects
    what many former interns lucky enough to find permanent employment must
    feel. However, and I’ll add some
    subjective experience of my own, my background is in theatre. I have worked for free more times than any
    human being should. I’ve had jobs that
    paid only in credits to add to my resume.
    Resume credits will not keep the lights on. Anecdotes about working for free will not buy
    food. Your article’s attitude of
    exasperation at others for not sharing your experiences, a sort of “I suffered
    through it and so should you,” point of view, is what I find particularly
    disheartening.

    When we hear the news of unemployment numbers, income gap
    between the richest and the rest, and
    falling wages every day right next to stories about how employers are adding
    more internships and fewer paid positions, we have to begin asking ourselves
    some fundamental questions. I see the
    practice of unpaid labor (internships, indentured servitude, slavery, or in
    whatever semantic term you may apply to it) as another facet in the erosion of
    human dignity. It is an ultimately
    dehumanizing practice just as the practice of one person using another for his
    own personal gain always has been and always will be. People, it seems, are treating each other
    with less respect. This whole practice of
    churning people through a system of unpaid labor for their first professional
    experience is, to me, just one more symptom of the larger issue of keeping humanity
    and humaneness thriving in our ever mechanized, technologized, faster, and
    impersonal world. The very root of the
    issue is that we are becoming disconnected, colder, and more inhumane to one another
    in every aspect of our lives. Your
    advice to those who are fighting for their dignity and the dignity of others to
    “shut the hell up” is indicative of that.
    Regardless of whether you actually believe that sentiment or are just utilizing
    hyperbole to troll for page views: the vitriol carries, it adds to the snowball
    already careening down the mountain, and it further dehumanizes all of us
    (yourself included).

    Now that I’ve expressed an opinion online, I await validation
    of my point of view in the normally inhuman comment section; the place where people
    prove that just because they can be terrible, they will, regardless of whether
    they should.

    • Tahlya Chazak

      You worded this much more eloquently than I could have. Thank you.

    • Courtney

      As a recent graduate of a large Philadelphia University, who graduated cum laude and had 4 unpaid internships with large corporations in the city, who are now offering me “intern wages” to now complete full time internships instead of hiring me fairly, this is the most beautiful and eloquent comment and rebuttal I have ever read on the Internet. I am trying to build a life, and I cannot do that if I am not fairly compensated for my work. And, to the author, who seems to assert that if I can’t turn an unpaid internship into a job then I am somehow incompetent, see above.

  • Michael Irwin

    What on earth is so terrible about paying someone $7.50 an hour for their work? If a business is so destitute that it can’t afford that little, then there’s really no future for it!

    • Ben Brennan

      Completely untrue. If they aren’t willing to do it for free, they won’t get to do it. According to their resumes, they are not qualified to do any job that a company would spend money on, which means the company will then only hire college grads and people with experience.

      • Michael Irwin

        I would say that it is you that is incorrect here, not I, nor the people in Congress who passed a law in 1935 stating that companies should not exploit the inferior position of the individual by offering employment only at a wage upon which it was impossible to exist.

        Right now there are many parents and spouses supporting people who are working for free. Many of them, like the gentleman who started the lawsuit, are very well capable of holding down a job in another field but wish to start anew.

        For example, I work with database systems and am continually in demand. If, however, I decided to become a cook in a restaurant, then I’d have to start at the bottom, as you say. However, I would still expect to be paid for my work. Not nearly so much as if I were of the skill level of an Anthony Bourdain, agreed, but enough to make sure I had a roof over my head and food to eat.

        Your opinion, Mr Brennan, appears to be that if I made such a move then I should expect no pay whatsoever. This I find to be a ridiculous point of view.

        • Ben Brennan

          Except that isn’t the case here. These interns knew going in that the internship was unpaid. If they wanted to get paid, they shouldn’t have accepted the job. Almost like they were planning to sue the company after the fact. If the company said they were going to pay and then didn’t, that would be a different story, but they didn’t. As for your example of becoming a chef, if you weren’t willing to start with an unpaid internship, I doubt anyone would be interested in bringing you in to work. So you would move to a career where no one would hire you. Good move.

      • zFashionizta

        Wait a minute, am i understanding this correctly, are you saying that they have no skills to get a paid so they should work for free? So these companies are exploiting people to save money?

  • LibertyHiller

    I’m not familiar with Pennsylvania’s rules for collecting UI, but I”m pretty sure that here in Cali, working as an intern (even unpaid) means you’re not eligible, since it’s a time commitment that (in the eyes of the folks at EDD, at least) impairs your ability to be available for paying work.

    • Afi_Scruggs

      I wondered about that, too. In Ohio, working as an intern – even unpaid – would have meant the end of the check.

    • zFashionizta

      Here in New York he wouldn’t qualify for unemployment either if he was interning.

  • http://blog.philadelphiarealestate.com/ Sandy Smith

    Things have definitely changed since I cut my teeth reporting at _The Kansas City Star_ in the mid-1970s.. Summer reporting interns there – college students all, save for me, fresh out of high school – got paid for their work, just as the high schoolers who worked as gofers on the copy desk did.

    It was only in broadcasting where interns were expected to work for free – and the “pay” took the form of college credit.

    I don’t know when print media adopted the broadcast model, but unpaid print internships certainly aren’t a longstanding tradition. Perhaps they accompanied the rise of online media, where people willingly give their work away all the time?

    Unpaid internships make it harder for those without a well-off Mommy and Daddy to lean on to learn the ropes in fields like the one we work in, Victor. I think I’d whine about that were I in such a situation too.

  • Lex Sachdev

    Thank you for this. I fully agree. Dollar signs are penultimate to getting a foot in the door. I’ve chosen (and will almost always choose) a better publication over a paycheck. It’s the nature of the industry, and when you’re in your early 20s, you can’t get picky. You just hustle.

    • Afi_Scruggs

      No, it’s not the nature of the industry. I got an internship in the 80s when I got my foot in the door as a journalist. I was paid @$300 a week; it was 2/3 the regular reporter salary. Not much then, but more than $0 ever will be.

      The justification was the same then as it is now: I was getting valuable experience. But my experience was valuable. I didn’t get coffee. I didn’t run errands. I covered stories. I made contacts and got a “real job” at the end of the summer.

      I read the NYTimes story and I was shocked to see that an MBA from one of the best schools had to work for free to get “experience.” I’m still SMH over that one.

      If you agree to exploitation, fine. Don’t expect everyone to fall for that okeydoke.

  • Andrea Wise

    You’re absolutely right that unpaid interns gain connections and relationships with key players in their industry, can gain mentors, real experience in their industry, etc. but by not offering commiserate pay for what the interns bring, you leave out a huge segment of the population, and perpetuate societal trends of white priveledge. You say “They’re adults, and many of them privileged ones at that” and you’re right. Because only students/young professionals with a certain level of financial security/financial support from family (relative priveledge) can even consider an unpaid internship. It’s economic discrimination and its not only the interns who can’t afford to spend months working for free who suffer. The industries suffer as well from the lack of diversity in their fields. That economic gap in young professionals who can afford to take unpaid internships and rose who can’t creates a bigger rift between who succeeds down the line and who doesn’t. This has much farther reaching consequences than just some priveledged intern who doesn’t want to pay his dues and I commend those interns for speaking up about the injustice of their situations. It takes tremendous courage to be the smallest voice against a major corporation. Hopefully the rest of us can benefit from their courageous actions.

    • Ben Brennan

      If they aren’t willing to do it for free, they won’t get to do it. According to their resumes, they are not qualified to do any job that a company would spend money on, which means the company will then only hire college grads and people with experience.

      • Michael Irwin

        What are you willing to do for free, for 8 hours per day, with no other source of income, Mr Brennan?

        • Ben Brennan

          In college, I was more than willing to put in 10 hours a day, 5 days a week interning with a music company

  • JABrock

    Was the author of this specious piece drawing unemployment benefits while vacationing in Haiti? How much of that co-authored story did he actually write? It has not been that long since he was an intern, yet he cannot recall if he made photocopies or not? Who wrote the heads on this piece? Shoddy, inferior journalism. But, so much of it is nowadays. Sad.

  • Ronnie Polaneczky

    Amen, Victor. I was an unpaid intern at Philly Mag. I worked two full-time days at the mag (with Platt – omg …) while attending Temple full-time and working 24 hours a week at a hospital because there was no one paying my way anywhere. The experience made me capable, showed me that I had a work ethic that wouldn’t let me down and made me feel lucky. Plus I laughed a whole, whole lot. Those Black Swanners need someone to pull them by the ear, push them down in a chair and tell them to grow the hell up. Jesus.

    • Afi_Scruggs

      But they won. That’s the important thing. They won.

  • Afi_Scruggs

    Well, send me the money you should have received. I’ll take it!

  • Kathleen

    Victor, I agree wholeheartedly! I was actually working on the assignment desk of a television station while I worked on my journalism degree. I took a 40 hour a week internship at the tv station and learned the production/ field news gathering side of television journalism and a career was born. After graduation, they hired me as a news producer. I worked my way into management in the newsroom and launched dozens of careers by hiring students first as interns and then for their first jobs. I’ve had the pleasure of watching the career of one intern as he has progressed to become a White House reporter.
    I hope this ruling doesn’t end unpaid internships. There is only so much that can be taught in class. The actual work experience is crucial especially in a business that has seen staff downsized dramatically over the past few decades.

  • marloww

    So basically, the only reason you were able to have an unpaid internship is because you were surviving on unemployment. Yeah, you can OBVIOUSLY speak for the millions of students working their butts off at paid jobs full time while they’re in school in order to survive, because they don’t want to live off of the government. Give me a break.

    • LibertyHiller

      It sounds like he collected money for which he wasn’t eligible. Wonder what the state would say about that if they knew? (whistling softly)

      • marloww

        Exactly. I’m not sure if I’m missing pieces in the timeline of this article, but it seems highly suspicious to be “vacationing in Haiti” while on unemployment.

  • Ryan Collerd

    I love the attitude of all these old writers. “Well I did it so you should have to do it too!” None of these interns want to hear about how great you are they just want some gas money and lunch. Greedy bastards!

  • Maribeth Gold

    Victor F. was a jerk when I interned at Philly Mag and seems to still be one today. I found my unpaid internship there completely useless, and have thankfully found my way into a great, well-paid journalism job (where we pay our interns) without its help.

    • Ryan Collerd

      Hahaha! Thank you.

  • Ben Brennan

    If they knew it was unpaid when they signed up for it, then they shouldn’t have a leg to stand on. They are compensated in terms of experience, college credit, and contacts/networking, and the reason that counts as compensation for them is because they are, at this point, completely unqualified for anything that the company would consider hiring someone for. Seriously, do you think any of these interns would have gotten these positions if the company had to pay for them? Of course not, the company would have hired recent college grads. What these interns went through is called paying your dues, and everyone who makes something of themself does it.

  • Sean Ali

    Victor, I usually enjoy your posts and look forward to reading them, however this time I think you missed the mark.
    Did you write this piece to get a reaction? Because it did from me.
    I have a recent college graduate who NEEDS to get paid.
    Lets stop the tyrannical exploitation of inexperienced workers and get on with being productive at all levels.

  • Katie Eder

    I interned at PhillyMag under Victor a few years ago, and yes, seeing where I am now, the experience/contact referrals were valuable back pay for my unpaid internships at the mag and The Inquirer. But what bothers me about the intern economy is the “college credit” piece of the puzzle, because I ended up paying thousands of dollars for six credits to appear on my transcript, essentially paying a third-party (my university) full paychecks’ worth of money for my two temporary positions. And I’m still paying the student loans on them, too, with the paychecks from my current full-time job.

  • Rose

    I could stand up and applaud for this piece. This isn’t about exploitation, it’s about a foot in the door for something you’re not qualified to do… YET. This is part of your education- and I can think of a million things I did throughout K-12 and undergrad that are completely irrelevant to what I’m doing now. It’s part of the deal, like getting lattes and tracking purchase orders. Of course paid internships would be wonderful, but unpaid internships or internships for credit still work in your favor and are the best things you can do to get started… I wish I had done them in college instead of taking the long way. I can’t believe how many people are whining about working their way into an industry without putting the sweat in.

  • Aaron

    I did an unpaid internship and worked on the weekend to make money. Everyone else I knew who was also an unpaid intern had a weekend job to make cash. We had the energy back then. I earned 6 college credits, and made contacts that led to employment after college. This was in a field (film production) where there were 10+ people vying for every 1 job. Being willing to pay your dues and work for free was part of the deal. One’s attitude toward the experience was a part of what got them to the next level – showing gratitude for having seasoned professionals help you learn your craft, while earning college credits. If I wanted a paid internship I would have majored in finance.

  • JoyManning

    It isn’t the interns that need protection. As you said, they tend to be, by and large, “privileged” in one way or another such that they can afford to spend those hours working without any payment. I’m not saying interns don’t make sacrifices–they do, but there’s something (whether it’s unemployment, parental support, or a savings cushion from a past job) that allows them to be uncompensated for their time. It’s the young people who cannot afford to spend those hours working without pay and instead need to do other jobs, the uneducational, no-networking jobs, you must take when you have no safety net. It isn’t fair that in the competition between these two groups one group gets such a gigantic leg up. I would have loved to have an internship at Philly mag or another magazine. It just wasn’t an option for me and many, many other people.

  • Eric Westby

    Good heavens — talk about missing the point. Trying to justify the continued use of unpaid labor, the author writes of unpaid interns that “They’re adults, and many of them privileged ones at that.”

    That’s *precisely* the problem: only young people of privilege can compete for positions that are unpaid. I come from a very modest background, and I could never have taken an unpaid position upon moving to NYC after college, since I wasn’t getting a dime of family assistance. The only options open to me were those that helped pay my meager shared rent. Unpaid internships do do nothing more than perpetuate the hegemony of the wealthy in the media business.

    Plus there’s the whole fact that, you know, we have minimum wage laws in this country.

  • Joseph C. Kim

    Interns still need to pay rent and eat.

  • Eric Westby

    But that’s just it: they’re not “whining about working their way into an industry.” They’d be delighted to! Rather, they’re frustrated because the only people who can afford to take those unpaid positions were privileged to begin with.

    Think about it. They’re asking for MINIMUM WAGE. And people are defending not even offering them minimum wage?

  • backliner

    I wish I was on unemployment so I could go on vacation to Haiti. Sounds like you didn’t really need the money anyway.

  • Jenny Horton

    THIS, so much.

  • Kaitlyn

    Compensation through college credit is complete crap considering that you have to PAY for college credit, which costs thousands of dollars. Unless the company you’re working for actually wants to foot the bill for those credits, they’re not compensating you in any way.

  • DM

    “I had recently left a job at Comcast, where I somehow got hired as a
    systems engineer, even though I had no idea what a systems engineer was
    or what I was supposed to do. I faked my way through it for about six
    months before they kicked me out the door…”

    Integrity is the essence and central to this entire issue. With his flippant comment above, Mr. Fiorillo admitted he is operating at a complete deficit. If corporations are indeed people, it is sad that they choose to behave like Mr. Fiorillo.

    • Jane Yavis

      If conceit was consumption, we wouldn’t even be reading this article. – I agree it’s awful.

  • tmmccloskey

    Unpaid internships are a way of legally screening out
    THOSE PEOPLE from the employment pool.

  • cheesespeare

    Thank you for your thoughtful comment. It reflects my experience, too (Four unpaid internships, which did nothing for my employment prospects in the midst of the recession). The entertainment fields in general rely on a huge amount of free labor provided by college students or recent graduates with stars in their eyes. If the internship provides training and skills that would make the intern stand out in an extremely crowded pool of applicants, I could understand working for free, but that is rarely the case if one is working in the film or theater industry. Since my intern days, I’ve graduated to working for small companies that rely on a young labor force willing to accept low wages without benefits. Since the recession, companies have been loathe to hire, and this is a mindset that probably won’t go away for some time. Is minimum wage really that much to ask?

  • ModerationMan

    In my response above I reference an article I read where I found that 69% of interns get hired when their program is complete, but I just found out that those numbers are for paid interns. In the article attached, there is a survey with some shocking statistics regarding unpaid interns and their hiring rates. I suggest everyone read this. http://www.theatlanticwire.com/business/2013/06/uselessness-unpaid-internships/66390/

  • John Brown

    “They’re adults, and many of them privileged ones at that.”
    That’s precisely the problem. When most internships are unpaid, privileged people disproportionately are the ones who get ahead. When I was working my way through college, I remember turning down many jobs – or not applying for them at all – because unlike many of my peers, my parents did not have the money to help me out with expenses while I interned. As a result, many of my peers with the same grades found much better starting positions upon graduation.
    At best this system puts hard-working lower-income people at a disadvantage. At worst, it completely disqualifies them for certain jobs – some employers won’t (especially in this job market) even look at you unless you have a certain type of internship experience.

    • Jane Yavis

      Victor was being paid,,,,Apparently he was fired from another job, collecting unemployment, and wanted to be paid as soon as the unemployment ended.

      That’s a lot different than the situation than the College Student Intern.

  • Jane Yavis

    Oh boy, another all about Victor Article. Victor, you were being paid while interning. Actually, US TAXPAYERS PAID FOR YOUR INTERNSHIP because you were too lay to get off your “A” and get a real job?

    Maybe it’s time for Victor to shut the “H” up. If you want the know about the so called real world, I hear they’re looking for a few good Cabbies,, have at it.

  • Jane Yavis

    I think Victor’s “they’re adults” statement is how the self-impressed handle “I’m the only one that worked hard and deserved the job” class envy we hear so much today.

  • Jane Yavis

    Victor seems to be the not so bright bulb who constantly wants to “Outshine” something. The Unemployment thing was a red light for me, too.

  • Rich-D

    Unpaid Internships cost less than maintaining slaves. A master had to feed, cloth, provide medical care and house slaves.

  • Khoury Johnson

    I’m a rising senior at college, and already I’ve held six unpaid internships, and one paid, which I’m currently working at. I’m not going to lie, in some cases, if it were not for the help of my immediate and extended family, I never would’ve been able to do a couple of the internships that I did, such as the U.S. State Department in DC, where living expenses are extraordinarily expensive. But outside of that, I received no compensation from my forty hour weeks at State, and eventually I went broke. This was the only time that happened. How? Maybe it’s luck, or perseverance, but I’ve always made it a point to work at least two other jobs in addition to my unpaid internship, so I can afford the work hours for no pay. I understand in today’s economic climate that finding jobs is hard for a lot of people, so I’m not saying everyone should go out and find multiple jobs to support their more risky endeavors. However, I’ve been fortunate enough–through work studies, contacts through previous jobs or internships, or my skills as a writer–to always find supplemental sources of income whenever I decided to take on an internship. Again, I realize not everyone has the opportunity to do this, so don’t read this as a prescription. But why do I put myself when all this? Because if I simply relied on the hit or miss nature of unpaid internships to build my professional profile, well…life would be considerably more of an uphill battle, I think. What I mean is that a lot of unpaid internships, while potentially valuable, are more long-term investments than short-term. Maybe I’m a horrible worker, but I never got hired from any of the unpaid internships I’ve worked at. But then again, each internship I’ve gotten was better (by that I mean more renowned and more selective) than the one before. Does that mean I should be grateful for all of my experiences? Yes and no. One internship promoted itself as a top-notch institution in its field, but the work I did when I actually got there was bordering on a complete waste of my time (I know, that sounds pretty elitist, but it’s true). Now, i have nothing against hard work: as a teenager i worked as a landscaper, painter, and contractor. But this job…sticking thumbtacks into a plaque at 8am, on a school day in which classes start at 10am (having already worked one shift of another job that started at 6am–don’t worry, I’m still in the honors program at my school) didn’t warrant the hassle, in my opinion. So, I gave them my notice, and I left about a month before I had intended. I didn’t feel too bad because, after 9 months of free labor, they still didn’t offer me a paying job–not immediately, or a shot of one after graduation. The main point is, that position was leading nowhere, and it had no short-term benefits as it didn’t pay and it affected my academic performance. I still had another job on the side, so I wasn’t too bad off, but in the end there were more negatives than positives. That being said, I don’t like to quit things I’ve started, and haven’t left another internship since. That isn’t to say that I leave another unpaid internship again if the experience was as unfulfilling as the one described above, or if I didn’t have another job to justify my free labor for people who may or may not hire me in the future. So while I do not advocate bitching and complaining over small and otherwise typical intern responsibilities, I don’t think unpaid interns have to “shut the hell up” if they truly have reason to leave and make better use of their time, for pay or simply for the “experience”. Not every internship is as…how do you say…fast-tracked as Philadelphia Magazine. If, after putting yourself out there and really making an effort to gain value from your internship, there still isn’t any sign of progression or long-term benefit (which alleviates the short-term loss of precious time on your part) then I say it’s perfectly fine to confront your superiors about your concerns, as long as its done in a respectful and thought out way.

    That being said, I realize internships are not possible for everyone, which is unfortunate, because the connections you can make have the potential to be lifelong resources. Not all unpaid internships are equal, and therefore blanket statements such as the one in this article’s title are, despite no lack of a better word, stupid.

  • Alexis

    I’m not entirely sure why journalism internships are now equated to coffee-fetcher. I worked, and I worked hard, and i’m incredibly offended that you imply otherwise.

    It’s easy for people who interned in the 80s to take this issue to the extreme, but I’m most certainly not a supporter of exploitation or unfair wages. I am CAPABLE of getting a “real” job, but with what my experience was 2 years ago, that was nothing more than a sales associate at Express. Post-grad, I’ll be highly more employable.

  • e2657383

    No they don’t. Now shut up.

  • Racheal

    I’m sorry but there should be compensation for any work that you do, so I think they should abolish unpaid internships. I’m not saying they have to pay them minimum wage, but people have to live, they have to eat and they have to pay bills, some people don’t have family that can pay for them or get unemployment benefits. I just finished an unpaid internship and yes it was a great experience and I learned a great deal from them, I won’t deny that.
    But this was large commercial interior design firm and they can’t even compensate for gas or parking, I’m sorry but that’s just being cheap. I understand if your a small firm to be unpaid but a large firm that has done designs for companies Google and Apple. It’s like really you can’t afford to pay for my gas.

  • GUADALUPE FERNANDEZ

    BUT I AM POOR AND UNPRIVILEGED. I AM WORKING TWO WORK-STUDY JOBS TO PAY FOR MY FULL COURSE LOAD IN ADDITION TO THE FALL INTERNSHIP.

    HELP ME.

  • zFashionizta

    In two the companies I worked for many of the interns were the children of the execs, and guess what, when it came time to hiring for paid positions those kids of the execs are the ones who got the job, the kids who were not privileged were overlooked and just ended up working for free… so it’s not what you know it’s who you know.