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The University of Pittsburgh's Daily Student Newspaper

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The University of Pittsburgh's Daily Student Newspaper

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The University of Pittsburgh's Daily Student Newspaper

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Column | Caitlin Clark adapts to life in the WNBA
Column | Caitlin Clark adapts to life in the WNBA
By James Carter, Staff Writer • June 20, 2024
Opinion | NHL needs to bring specialty jerseys back
By Jameson Keebler, Senior Staff Columnist • June 19, 2024

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Column | Caitlin Clark adapts to life in the WNBA
Column | Caitlin Clark adapts to life in the WNBA
By James Carter, Staff Writer • June 20, 2024
Opinion | NHL needs to bring specialty jerseys back
By Jameson Keebler, Senior Staff Columnist • June 19, 2024

Opinion | Unpaid internships will never be fair

Opinion+%7C+Unpaid+internships+will+never+be+fair
Carrington Bryan | Visual Editor

Last semester, I landed my dream internship. I found the internship I wanted over the summer and then spent the fall semester preparing. I collected work samples and reached out to people who had the job in previous semesters. Most importantly, I logged into TeamWork every day so that I could submit my application the same day that the job listing got posted.

The internship was an amazing experience. Most of it was basic unpaid intern activities, like handing out papers and proofreading, but loving even the mundane parts helped me solidify the career direction that I will pursue. I genuinely miss working with the organization, but I also appreciate the new internship that they helped me get. 

Reflecting on my internship and seeing all of the good that it has done for me already, it’s hard not to account for the privileges I had that allowed me to take it. I put a lot of effort into getting the internship and was dedicated throughout my time there, but I still wonder if equally qualified applicants will ever get the same opportunity because of financial restraints.

My internship ended up taking over my semester at some point. I expected that would happen and could manage it, but without the financial support I receive from my family, I don’t see how that would have been possible.

Since the internship was unpaid, the compensation was in class credits. This somehow counts as compensation for the work, even though the interns still need to pay for the credits they are receiving from the school. It felt like not only working for free, but paying to work. This is accepted as a professional stage that everyone goes through — but what about those who can’t afford it?

Internships will also tell you that you should speak up if you are being given too much work to do that puts you over the agreed-upon hours. This message falls flat when it comes along with their constant reminders of how this internship is your opportunity to make it in whatever competitive industry you are pursuing. 

At many points, my internship went to lengths to emphasize how lucky I was. I don’t think they were wrong, because I knew I was in a privileged position, but I’m not sure we thought I was lucky for the same reasons. They focused on my luck to be able to work for such an amazing company, while I was more focused on how I could never have taken this opportunity if my family didn’t support me financially.

Working for free is not possible for all college students. Internships are so highly valued in many competitive industries to the point that it is nearly impossible to get a foot in the door without at least one internship. It gives me a pessimistic outlook on the world, realizing that some things only come down to privilege. There could be amazingly talented interns out there who will never get a shot because they can’t afford to give their work away for free. 

If companies are investing in their intern programs and really want to bring up their next generation of employees, the best thing they can do is offer financial compensation for the work done. Offering payment, even if only minimum wage, will result in better applicants because students will not be prevented from applying because they can not afford it. 

If you are an intern, remember to go easy on yourself. Work hard, but remember that if you are an unpaid intern, one of your company’s justifications for not paying you is that you are not required to work long hours while in school. Make sure you aren’t burning yourself out doing work you aren’t being compensated for. Even if your field is very competitive and you feel you need to take advantage of the opportunity, you can do that without working to exhaustion. Use the internship to explore the field and think about what you want for your future. 

Jameson Keebler writes primarily about pop culture and current events. Write to her at [email protected].

About the Contributor
Jameson Keebler
Jameson Keebler, Senior Staff Columnist
Jameson Keebler is a junior Political Science major. She is from New Jersey and loves to read. She is interested in writing about literature and pop culture.