Experience over compensation

Suzi Starheim

Students work for companies unpaid

Cory Davis will graduate next weekend with five job offers as a result of the two internships he completed while at Kent State.

Like Davis, all students are encouraged now more than ever to build up their résumés with internships and other work experience before graduating from college.

Davis, a senior marketing major, worked as the director of marketing and public relations for Kent State’s annual fashion show and also as a marketing intern for Don Joseph Toyota Scion for the past year.

Davis said when searching for internships, there are certain things students should remember.

“Sometimes the very best internship isn’t paid because it’s the best internship,” Davis said.

He also said if students want a job, they have to work for it and not take no for an answer.

Davis said he got good job offers because he looked into all options that he felt may have benefited his career and résumé. In the end, Davis chose a media coordinator position at Malone Advertising.

“I found that what worked for me was to just apply to everything and anything that looked slightly appealing through the Internet career sites, company sites and Business Experience Listserv e-mails,” Davis said.

The worst thing students can do to obtain a job is sit around and wait for a job to come find them, Davis said.

“In my recent experience I have found that the stand-out students and leaders through the business school and other things I have been involved in around campus have had offers and have a real plan and career goal in mind,” Davis said. “On the other hand, I do know people that are a bit stagnant and seem to be waiting for their dream job to fall into their lap.”

The push for more unpaid interns

Robert Heisler, dean of the College of Business, said the objective for the College of Business is to have 250 to 300 students completing internships each year. While internships are not mandatory to graduate, they are highly encouraged, Heisler said.

“We are encouraging kids to do internships because we want students to have a real business experience,” he said.

Heisler said this new trend of unpaid internships is a result of the poor economic climate. But the business department monitors unpaid internships closely.

Kristin Williams, business experiences manager, is the person who monitors students’ internships to make sure that companies are not just using students as “errand runners.”

“We require the employer to submit a job description form before we will even post it for students to let them know it’s available,” Williams said. “We want to make sure the students are getting a wholesome learning experience.”

The school looks at paid and unpaid internships for its students. Williams said they look at both so students are not limited to the shrinking number of paid internships.

“While we are definitely seeing an increase in unpaid options, only 35 percent of our students are unpaid,” Williams said. “We are seeing bigger organizations and corporations switching to unpaid, but we’re still seeing a good number of paid internships coming in.”

Robert Frank, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs, said while he would ideally like to see each student obtain a paid internship, pay is not always necessary to find a good one.

“The truth is if a student can manage to get into one of these unpaid internships, their probability of success for moving into the job market goes up substantially,” Frank said.

While Frank admits he doesn’t like the trend of internships becoming unpaid, he said having an internship does have “a lot of upsides for kids.”

“They get insight into the kinds of work they are interested in,” Frank added. “They get a lot of mentoring experience about how to perform that doesn’t necessarily result in you losing a job and it helps you network.”

Drawing the line

Williams said that while many students are being hired as unpaid interns, they are not just used as a source of free labor.

“When it’s unpaid, they are meeting the National Labor Board’s guidelines,” she said. “It takes time and energy and resources for that business to really set up a good experience for that student.”

Determining if the internship will be a good experience is something students have to analyze before committing to the job, Frank said. This involves looking into the tasks students will be expected to complete during the internship.

Frank added students should always know the tasks they will have prior to signing on the dotted line.

“In general, anything that you get that is very aligned with what you hope to do in the future is probably advantageous to you,” Frank said. “To me, the line is how close is it to what you really aspire to do, and if it’s close, I’d say to a student, ‘I encourage you to consider that.’”

Davis agreed with this by saying that if students have to pick between two internships, always look at the experiences of each and what you are going to get out of it. Students should make sure the internships are good résumé builders because so many people with degrees are applying for jobs.

“You kind of have to stand out against everybody else because so many people are getting a degree that you can’t just have a degree,” Davis said. “If you really want to get the job that you want, you can’t just wait back and let something happen. You have to go out and get it.”

Davis said students looking for internships should always weigh the value of the internship on the experience it offers rather than the paycheck.

Contact academics reporter Suzi Starheim at [email protected].