Paying to intern?

I got my first internship when I was sixteen. A professor (yes, I started college a bit early) of mine put me in touch with the person who was hiring. He did so, one assumes, because I applied myself in class, took an active interest in the subject matter (it was my major, after all), and had begun early on the task of networking (I went to a large school, but made it a point for him to know who I was). My professional life has evolved in much the same fashion ever since. I apply myself 100% in the office, get to know the people I interact with in a professional capacity, and never miss an opportunity to meet new people (aka, that most dreaded word, networking). These lessons, learned so early on from the task of acquiring my first internship, have served me well. As it should be in a meritocracy, no?

Thus, it was with dismay that I read in WSJ of a rising trend in procuring internships — parents paying exorbitant amounts of money to agencies just to get a foot in the door. That’s right, not only are internships still unpaid, but people are actually blowing thousands of dollars trying to get them. The tagline of the piece really sums it up: “Buying Your Kid an Internship.”  In short…

“Faced with a dismal market for college summer internships, a growing number of anxious parents are pitching in to help — by buying their kids a foot in the door. Some are paying for-profit companies to place their college students in internships that are mostly unpaid. Others are hiring marketing consultants to create direct-mail campaigns promoting their children’s workplace potential. Still other parents are buying internships outright in online charity auctions.”

Awesome, so if you can afford to fund the position (a la charity auction), you can have your kid fill it! Surely that will weed out the less qualified people and increase productivity in any organization. As someone who has had the occassion to hire interns, I really can’t imagine a situation like that. What happened to initiative?

My favorite quote has to be this…

“Without such programs, says Linda Bayer, executive director of the Washington Internship Program [$3,400 placement fee], the capital would be ‘the playground of the children of the rich, whether they were capable or not’ — because snaring internships would largely be based on personal connections.”

Yes, because the “average” parent has three grand lying around to finance something like that. If you’re that well off, I’m sure you could swing it without the money…after all, how many of us did a stint as an intern in the hallowed halls of Congress? When I think about the litany of people I know who have, they certainly didn’t get there because daddy was a major contributor. If you’re there because you paid that much to get into this program, I must say I think that puts you firmly into the category of promoting the “playground of the rich” concept rather than combatting it.


One response to “Paying to intern?

  1. How shameless to present their service as egalitarian. Paying to work levels the playing field?! But this is just the natural next step as long as unfair internships are allowed to blossom while the law looks the other way.

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