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Posted: 6:00 a.m. Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Internships -- exploitation or education?

Unpaid interns filing lawsuits against employers



By Clark Howard

ClarkHoward.com


Have you heard about the lawsuits several unpaid interns are filing against their former non-employers alleging they were used as unpaid labor? I couldn't believe what I read in The Los Angeles Times.

My feeling is that unpaid internships should be for networking because they may lead to future opportunities elsewhere. But talk about biting the hand that didn't feed you!

One key cornerstone of an unpaid internship should be receiving course credit. If an internship is not based on an academic program, it may be a big nothingburger for you where you're going to feel exploited. An internship must have clear goals and assignments.

If you do get in a bad situation, you should treat it as a life experience. Because filing a lawsuit is sour grapes. That's a way to burn bridges when internships are all about building bridges.

Meanwhile, unemployed Americans have a 27% increase in employability if they first work for free as a volunteer, according to The Washington Post. That number jumps up to 50% in a rural area. It's the first time I've ever seen empirical evidence of what we've all long taken as a truism.

As for me, I did paid internships and one unpaid internship in my day. All of them ended up building experiences for me and routinely led to other opportunities. But suing? Wow, that's way too litigious, especially if you hope to work in that industry at some point in the future!