Seniors, be smart to get academic internshipsOct 15th, 2009 | By joegrimm | Category: Internships, News
By JOE GRIMM
The journalism internship picture for 2010 is coming into focus and it is not pretty.
It seems that several newsrooms will not be offering any internships at all and some that had been offering paid internships will be going the unpaid route.
This raises a special challenge — and strategy — for 2010 graduates looking for internships.
One way companies get around wage and hour laws with their unpaid internships is by offering them as academic internships — for college credit only.
I have said it before: Interns do real work and should be paid.
Unpaid internships screen out people who do not have enough household wealth to work for nothing. That eliminates talented people from low-income households and narrows the journalism field at a time when we should be opening it up.
Another group that can be hurt by the credit-only model is graduating seniors. One of my students at Michigan State University, a senior who is applying all over, said he is hearing from newsrooms with unpaid internships that say they will not take graduating seniors. The newsrooms can’t use the for-credit dodge on people who are graduates.
Just this sort of thing happened to me when I was coming out of school more than 30 years ago and looking for an internship. One newsroom told me it couldn’t take me because I was graduating. It never explained why and I never understood. Maybe now I do.
Here’s a strategy for seniors who can afford to work for nothing and who might run into this nasty strain of senioritis: Arrange the last year of college so that it is all done except for credits you could use to do an internship. Tell employers, “I’ll be all done except for a couple credits, which I would like to earn working in your newsroom.” That should do the trick.
This can be easy to do in the fall, when many internship offers get made. Just tell employers that your last year of college can include that internship.
In the last semester of college, this can be more difficult. Most seniors will be only too glad to graduate and walk with their friends — unless staying longer can mean landing an internship. If the offer comes too late, dropping a class to be academically eligible would mean throwing tuition money out the window.
So, seniors, keep your options open as you look this fall. Don’t become so committed to graduating “on time” that you accidentally disqualify yourself from a chance to get that internship. Whether you officially graduate at the beginning of the summer or the end will be academic.