Author Topic: ARTICLE: NYT Jobs Few, Grads Flock to Unpaid Internships  (Read 4604 times)

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MatthewShiner

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Anything posted here as in my own personal opinion, and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of my employer - whomever they be at a given moment in time.

EFMcMullen

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Re: ARTICLE: NYT Jobs Few, Grads Flock to Unpaid Internships
« Reply #1 on: May 06, 2012, 04:40 pm »
(Playing devil's advocate...)

There seems to be a very fine line between just getting coffee and being exploited. 

Don't get me wrong my theatre intern philosophy is my interns should be paid something and hopefully housing and they don't work if I'm not working. I don't believe in completely unpaid internships.  Even something as low as $75 a week is a good faith gesture from the theatre.

But reading these articles I'm struck by those who "only got coffee" and complained that they felt they learned nothing (hours were definitely not exploited in anyway and they were not necessary to the job)  to those who are given simple tasks to take on as their own and they fuss and complain that they are being exploited.  I'm definitely not saying that working 9 to 9 unpaid is okay or being sent to pick up people's groceries is acceptable.  Those are definitely NOT okay in my book.  But it seems to me by definition an intern is someone who is there to learn how that particular business works.  By being assigned tasks, no matter how menial, you are getting an opportunity to be a part of the process.  And maybe there is a day that process goes long.  Or lunch is slammed in someplace.  That is part of that particular business.  If you wanted to intern at Wal-Mart you would discover 4 hour shifts and then you would get to go home.  How is my intern going to learn how to improve on their paperwork if they don't take a stab at it on their own? 

I wonder if there is just a little bit of "I went to college and this is beneath me" mentality these days. (Yes, sounding like a grumpy old woman) And I also wonder if they are not using the internship to the fullest.  To get the most out of an internship, the intern themselves have to be a part of the process, talking with people, meeting with people, taking advantage of the place they are in, making connections and asking questions.  If these people had nothing to learn and knew everything they wouldn't need the internship to begin with, they would have a job. 

For the record, I also am glad I am not graduating college in this job market.  It's tough.  And since it seems that unpaid or low-paid internships are the way to get started, take full advantage so you only have to do one or two.  (Six... that's crazy!  Go work at McDonald's or Starbucks) 

Off my soapbox...

PSMKay

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Re: ARTICLE: NYT Jobs Few, Grads Flock to Unpaid Internships
« Reply #2 on: May 06, 2012, 09:25 pm »
(Obligatory feature plug: If you're wrapping up a spring internship, this is a great time to add it to the SMNetwork Internship review database. Help the next round of interns to make the right choice!)

EFMcMullen addresses several of the dilemmas I had to face while designing the scoring algo for the review system. Do I hold paid internships to a different standard? How do you gauge the amount a person learns? How do you compensate for the skill and initiative of the interns themselves? Do you hold an IA house up to the same ruler as a brand new storefront 99-seat theatre?

joannamblack

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Re: ARTICLE: NYT Jobs Few, Grads Flock to Unpaid Internships
« Reply #3 on: May 07, 2012, 05:02 am »
This is very interesting to me as I am currently working 2 unpaid internships (The ol' standard ones though, 1 in film 1 in not-for-profit theatre)... Obviously I agree with some of the complaints of minimum wage violations in this article, but complaining about the non-educational work experience is a little interesting for two reasons - the first being that when you say intern I immediately think coffee bitch, so why is it so shocking to the grads in this article? The second is because I feel as an intern that it is my job to make it an educational experience - if I don't ask questions how do I except to learn anything. Obviously it would not be my first choice to run company errands, but it's all part of the job. I have found that the more questions I ask,  the more likely an employer is willing to hire me as I am clearly showing interest in the business and the company. It is unfortunate that companies do take advantage of unpaid internships because they are not well regulated, but as I am a current student and not a recent grad, I do not have the credentials to be a paid employee anyway so I'll take advantage of the experience and the connections.

SMrose

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Re: ARTICLE: NYT Jobs Few, Grads Flock to Unpaid Internships
« Reply #4 on: May 07, 2012, 07:37 am »
but as I am a current student and not a recent grad, I do not have the credentials to be a paid employee anyway so I'll take advantage of the experience and the connections.

joannamblack, as a current student, are you getting credit hours through your university for the internship?

RuthNY

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Re: ARTICLE: NYT Jobs Few, Grads Flock to Unpaid Internships
« Reply #5 on: May 07, 2012, 08:33 am »
Very interesting quote:

"The Labor Department says that if employers do not want to pay their interns, the internships must resemble vocational education, the interns must work under close supervision, their work cannot be used as a substitute for regular employees and their work cannot be of immediate benefit to the employer. "

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MatthewShiner

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Re: ARTICLE: NYT Jobs Few, Grads Flock to Unpaid Internships
« Reply #6 on: May 07, 2012, 11:00 am »
I have worked at major regional theaters where the intern is running crew, running light and sound board and being dressers.

The show would not have gone on without the intern.

I felt like they were being taken advantage of.  If the show can't go on without the intern . . . perhaps it should be a paid position - and that means paid with overtime.

The problem is that we have been programed to say there is a place for non-paid (or under paid labor), and in reality, there are VERY clear outlines about what is and what is not an internships.  My next battle would be to pay an PA hourly with overtime, as the position is not a non-exempt positions and should be paid overtime.



« Last Edit: May 07, 2012, 11:07 am by MatthewShiner »
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Anything posted here as in my own personal opinion, and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of my employer - whomever they be at a given moment in time.

ewharton

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Re: ARTICLE: NYT Jobs Few, Grads Flock to Unpaid Internships
« Reply #7 on: May 07, 2012, 11:51 am »
The PA position that I had was hourly with overtime. It was great, there were weeks when I made more than the PSM and I had health insurance through the theatre company.

That being said, I will not do an unpaid internship. There were times in my life when I considered it, but while I was in school, every summer I had to take a paying job so that I could pay for school and once I was out of school I had bills to pay. Unfortunately, this does set up a division in our country; between people that can afford to take unpaid internships because they have other methods of support and people that simply can't afford to do this. I've always been in the group that can't afford to do one.

bpaige

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Re: ARTICLE: NYT Jobs Few, Grads Flock to Unpaid Internships
« Reply #8 on: May 08, 2012, 02:01 pm »
I think it's really hard doing an unpaid internship. I did one for a summer where there was an entire intern company that made the shows possible.  Interns in the light and sound department were board operators. The stage management department were the backstage people. The company literally would not have run if the interns decided not to work. That didn't happen of course, but it was definitely a learning experience.

Having done this unpaid internship, I know I would never ever do one again. I was expected to know the job backwards and forwards, have little to no breaks, and I had to pay for food and housing. It was an awful summer but I learned what kind of places I wanted to work for in the future. I do think there are some people out there who do need to take a stab at the unpaid internship, see what it is like, and take what good they can away from it. I can attest that I am a harder worker and have more of a passion for good theatre with good workers. I would not have had that if I hadn't worked at my unpaid internship for a summer.

joannamblack

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Re: ARTICLE: NYT Jobs Few, Grads Flock to Unpaid Internships
« Reply #9 on: May 12, 2012, 11:05 am »
SMrose

No I am not. For the theatre apprenticeship I am getting an equity credit (the credit/points thing is different in Canada) and in order to receive the equity credit I cannot be getting any school credits for it as well.
« Last Edit: May 12, 2012, 11:08 am by joannamblack »

BARussell

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Re: ARTICLE: NYT Jobs Few, Grads Flock to Unpaid Internships
« Reply #10 on: May 14, 2012, 10:51 am »
I do think there are some people out there who do need to take a stab at the unpaid internship, see what it is like, and take what good they can away from it. I can attest that I am a harder worker and have more of a passion for good theatre with good workers. I would not have had that if I hadn't worked at my unpaid internship for a summer.

Well, I've only done paid internships (hourly with overtime) and I can't say that I would be a harder worker if they had been unpaid, namely because we could be worked to death. So there is no reason why people should be unpaid, you can learn just as much, work as hard, AND get paid.
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On_Headset

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Re: ARTICLE: NYT Jobs Few, Grads Flock to Unpaid Internships
« Reply #11 on: May 14, 2012, 01:55 pm »
There's actually an even bigger problem here.

Within production, work is usually subdivided by rank. Some tasks are normally allocated to the senior person, some to the middle people, some to the apprentices/assistants/juniors. These ranks aren't uniform across companies (and the exact tasks can vary widely from position to position), but within companies themselves, "we usually have the apprentices do that" is a common refrain.

In many companies (especially in non-commercial) there is now a class of work below that of the apprentice: the intern.

The catch is that, while the existing ranks provide for an obvious progression (a few seasons of apprenticing will qualify you for a mid-range job, which--in a few years--will tee you up for a senior position), intern work often doesn't. A season spent making photocopies and serving canapes to donors and picking up dry cleaning and fixing the artistic director's Blackberry in no way prepares you to move up in the world. (Networking is great and all, but should you need to do fifty hours a week of busy-work in order to make whatever contacts you can make at some summerstock company out in the boonies?) Unless there's a clear path between your internship and the job you eventually want to hold, you are wasting your time. Worst-case scenario (and several people have had this experience), you gain excellent qualifications to hold unpaid internships, but no qualifications to find paying work in the field.

At the other extreme is the overqualified intern: the person who is absolutely vital to the show. If you're performing duties at your unpaid internship for which someone else would normally be paid, you're eating your own lunch. (Do you really expect to be paid in future for performing work which they can easily get someone to do for free?)