Every fresh graduate wants a job that pays well. Unfortunately, the cold and harsh lands of the corporate scene cannot always accommodate lofty dreams and aspirations . Many companies are reluctant to hire new graduates without prior experience in relevant fields. This is where internship programs come in. They provide valuable experience and contacts to young workers while lowering costs and risks for companies. But are unpaid internships fair? The jury is still out on that. Some companies offer stipends to compensate for commute and food costs, while others expect you to cover them on your own. In Bangladesh, unpaid internships are extremely common, considering the fact that competitive internships at lucrative companies are often unpaid. However, outside the bubble of Bangladesh, legal and moral issues plague this particular topic. As common as they are, they have their pros and cons that every student should be aware of before committing to one.
Classroom vs. out of classroom
The real world experiences you acquire in relevant fields will always count. While university education can be great and extremely valuable too, there are parts of jobs that cannot simply be taught in a classroom setting.You might not be receiving any perks, monetary or otherwise, as an intern, but by working in an actual office and doing practical things, you gain precious on-the-job experience.
The résumé builder
Many employers subsequently offer paid positions to excellent interns because of the rapport developed with them. Logistically, it makes more sense to hire the intern who developed specialized skill sets and gained company-specific training, than to hire somebody completely unexposed to the organisational culture. Even if you choose not to stay with that particular company, the skills you learn could help build up your résumé and impress future employers.
To make it meaningful for the students, many industries compensate for the lack of money by offering extra credit points. Private universities have kept a 4-credit requirement as an internship for business majors!
A free bird, kind of
By definition, a person is an intern if the person is only practicing the skills required in industry for educational purposes. An intern's work has no immediate benefit to the company. So technically, you are not under pressure to complete the company's daily task; more so if you're not compensated for it. Hence, you can use the freedom to learn and understand the skills and knowledge required to work in the future. However, if you plan on joining the company as a permanent employee, it's always a good move to exceed expectations and make a lasting impression.
An endless cycle
You often hear tales of internships being dead ends despite their promises of offering a solid future with that company. Most people start with internships since it's the easiest to land. If the internship that you're doing does not lead to full-time jobs, then is it really any good? According to some exasperated ex-interns, unless you score a winning internship, it all sounds like an endless cycle of false hopes and despair.
The financial hurdle
Many graduates and university students can't afford to spend hours thanklessly working for free. At some point, money needs to be made to finally stop depending on your parents and help them pay the bills for a change. While experience in a field may eventually lead to financial success, there is a huge opportunity cost to pay, especially for graduates.
Unfair advantage of work
There are some companies who use internships to get work done for free, without offering any form of benefits. They save money but the interns get no returns. There are some internships that require you to fetch files, get tea/coffee, shred paper and do other tasks that have nothing to do with your field. Doing menial tasks once in a while is okay, but if these are all they're making you do, steer clear of such internships.
While the experience can get you a job, it can also hold you back. However, between a paid and an unpaid intern, the credentials on the paid intern definitely look more impressive. As such, in an either-or situation, the paid intern is more likely to get the job.
In the end, it all boils down to one thing; how do you feel about your work? If you come home from your internship each day wishing you didn't have to go back the next morning and feel as if you cannot quit because it is a “valuable experience”, then that internship might not be the right one. But if it's the opposite, and you love what you do, then keep at it! While work experience is great, the right job or internship should venture into several different realms of experiences, make you happy and excite you about the opportunities ahead.
Shabiba is a senior at BRAC University. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org