Dear Dr. Civitelli,
I just saw the legal ruling where a federal judge said that many unpaid internships are illegal if offered by a for-profit company. My college career advisor said that to maximize my marketability, I should do an internship whether it is paid or not. What do you recommend?
Confused College Student
Dear Confused College Student,
I don’t know if this legal ruling will be upheld and I have mixed feelings about it. Unpaid internships can be a form of exploitation and that’s bad. However, these unpaid experiences can also be a way for college students to gain experience in competitive fields and to make industry connections that yield opportunities for decades to come.
It isn’t as simple, either, as looking at whether the internship is paid vs. unpaid. A paid internship where you don’t get good opportunities to learn and make connections is of questionable value. By contrast, an unpaid internship can be very beneficial if you learn a lot and meet people in the career field you are exploring.
A couple of years ago, I interviewed college students who leveraged their internships into terrific full-time jobs. While this doesn’t happen for everyone who completes an internship, read their stories and see what you think.
I hope this helps you to decide!