Unpaid internships and the art of empathy

  • Article by: Christine Brunkhorst
  • Updated: July 17, 2013 - 6:45 PM

The next step is to acknowledge that others don’t, and to imagine what this means.

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momsocJul. 17, 13 9:50 PM

Perfect column. I have watched this recent practice and it is just wrong. Parents, such as my husband and I, who can afford to support their kids while doing unpaid internships just need to stop. We don't let our kids take the unpaid internships by telling them they deserve to be paid and its unfair to the kids who can't afford it. Organizations need to pay for work done on their behalf. Way to go Christine

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remoguyJul. 17, 1310:17 PM

As a small business owner I am often approached by young people looking for unpaid interns. My answer is always "If I have enough work for an intern, my customers are paying me enough for that intern to be paid." Unpaid internships should be outlawed.

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mariezzJul. 18, 1312:00 AM

I agree with the comments that unpaid internships should be outlawed. If nothing else, the current laws should be enforced - they make many so-called "unpaid internships" illegal because the internships do not meet the terms of the law. Corporations used to believe in TRAINING workers - now they expect government to do this (by demanding government design community & technical college courses that meet very specific needs). Or, they expect people to work for free.

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tomtom02Jul. 18, 13 2:18 AM

Not many years ago there was a thing called an EXTERNSHIP (unpaid labor while training.) INTERNSHIP was paid training. What happened to EXTERNSHIP these past few years?

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pitythefoolsJul. 18, 13 7:34 AM

I have always paid my interns. By law, an unpaid intern can do no work that is of value to the company. Why do I need someone around who is doing no work? The fact is that unpaid internships are ways for business owners to get real work out of the intern, because the intern would never report the illegal activity. Partly they're doing the internship for experience, networking and a reference. So they won't report the greedy, selfish employer that's breaking the law.

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Don9539Jul. 18, 13 9:12 AM

I respect the arguments made that businesses and students should, or should not be involved in this practice. But I do not understand why we need government involved. Generally business owners and college kids are quite savvy. Why would we believe them incapable of coming to a mutually beneficial agreement on their own?

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hermajestyJul. 18, 1310:04 AM

Don9539: We need the government involved because there are always employers who will take every advantage of employees, whether fair or legal or safe or not. Some of those savvy college kids may come from families that are independently wealthy--that's true of the students who take unpaid internships with such "impoverished" organizations as the Wall Street Journal, banks, and major newspapers. These unpaid internships, often in very expensive cities, can give the already-connected student a further leg up. These kinds of opportunities need to be opened to students whose families CAN'T afford to support them for a summer in New York AND pay college tuition at the same time.

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davehougJul. 18, 1311:37 AM

What better way for a low-income person with an average resume to get ahead than to take a part-time UNpaid intersnship for a few weeks (along with a paid part-time job as needed) to prove that behind that average resume is a great employee? Kind of breaks the Catch-22 of only experienced need apply.

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one4themoneyJul. 18, 13 5:31 PM

Hennepin County Libraries staffs itself through "interns", "volunteers", and "substitute workers". They do the same work as staff but without pay. It is pathetic that they have gotten away with this for so many years. I hope people in these positions start demanding to be treated as more than mere beggars.

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mvfa55Jul. 18, 13 7:13 PM

I enjoyed this commentary. It may have even changed my mind. the one thing that stood out however was the "comment" from her father. By some doing some VERY basic research I would guess that he has been retired for a number of years and i think the siruation has changed. When my family was on food stamps in the late 60's I was tasked with taking mom grocery shopping cause dad was too ashamed. The shame, which was a good thing, has been lost and I don't think her father's comment is as true as it once was.

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