Sunday, April 5, 2009

Can I pay for that with experience?

Last semester I was fortunate enough the have a wonderful internship that earned me three credits and experience I could have never gained in the classroom. I worked hard for the respect of my superiors in the hopes that they might recommend me for employment in the future, and I satisfied requirements that will allow me to graduate in May.

But there is another type of internship out there. Deep in the post-college job hunt, I have found that there are more of these kinds of internships out there than jobs. And in the descriptions of these internships, the compensation description reads: experience.

Will my leasing office, phone company, and doctor accept experience? What kind of payment is this, anyways?

If I wanted to work for free, I'd go back home and live with my parents. It's like an apprenticeship minus the food, shelter, and clothing. And according to Labor and Employment Law Blog, despite the commonality of unpaid internships, they are illegal.

The U.S. Department of Labor has outlined a list of criteria that ALL must be met in order for an internship to be unpaid.

1. The training, even though it includes actual operation of the facilities of the employer, is similar to that which would be given in a vocational school;
2. The training is for the benefit of the trainee;
3. The trainees do not displace regular employees, but work under close observation;
4. The employer that provides the training derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the trainees and on occasion the employer’s operations may actually be impeded;
5. The trainees are not necessarily entitled to a job at the completion of the training period; and
6. The employer and the trainee understand that the trainees are not entitled to wages for the time spent in training.

From the above list, #4 is really the key one – all the others will follow from whether the employer derives any immediate benefit from the activities.

But the number of people willing to work for free hasn't diminished. In fact, the present economic environment will most likely exacerbate the problem as more become desperate for any opportunity presented. But the concept of a "try out," where companies can use you as labor and then decide if they like you enough to hire and pay you seems really bogus.

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