Internships will happen. Be ready

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By Lee Richardson

Hello. Welcome to Ryerson. Now that you’re here you might as well start thinking about internships. Why so soon? Because if you’re anything like most students (i.e. poor) you’ll have to start saving money now to apply for them in your third or fourth year. The earlier you start saving the better, as the vast majority of internships neglect a wage, or in some cases, even an honourarium.

With the average internship lasting three months, that is $7200 you’d be missing out on, if it was a full-time job paying $15 an hour. Just to help boost your resume and portfolio over the proclamations of experience finely crafted by your classmates (or so you imagine).

This past year there has been significant media coverage of internships, especially the unpaid variety, with discussion in the U.S. and the U.K. (and growing debate in Canada) over the legality of employers pushing workloads onto unpaid interns — who often have no realistic chance of landing a job at the company — rather than the company spending extra money on hiring another employee or two.

The concern around the trend of unpaid internships is that the industries that run off of the utilization of interns, such as journalism, will eventually become areas of work reserved only for the elite. Those with roots in money and/or privilege will be the few granted access to the career ladder.

This notion of unpaid internships and a potential work-based class divide has recently been touched upon in an online article by a Toronto based writer. Focusing on the need for monetary backing before heading into the internship world, the writer, in a line that stuck with me uncomfortably through the rest of the article, stated that as she’d been through university she had surpassed the stage of her life where she had to work in the ‘failure’ of the blue collar work environment.

While I could write double my allotted words on how this way of thinking is misguided, I’ll instead offer the most concise advice I can manage. After all, the rest of this issue is full of advice, so i thought I’d join in.

#1. Mapping a single career path with one goal in mind (i.e.: a creative job position) is probably the worst thing you can do. Even if you get an internship there’s no guarantee of being hired. If one aspect of the plan goes wrong, you’re stuck with no alternatives. Be open.

#2. Blue collar work shouldn’t be regarded as a failing, before or after graduation. It can, depending, pay more than creative jobs. Working blue collar, saving, then shooting for applying to that inevitable unpaid internship is an alternative to struggling on a ‘creative’ freelancers wage.

#3. You’re at university, but at the end of it, having a degree doesn’t owe you anything – especially a guarantee of a job. The only guarantee is the guarantee that you’ll have a degree. And one last bit of advice for your time at Ryerson. Avoid the vegetarian burger at the Ram.


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