I must admit, I've been really naive about this issue. I've been generally aware that there are Federal labor laws regulating the practices of paid and unpaid interns, but I haven't really done any due diligence on the issue-- until recently.
A good friend challenged me to consider the higher calling that Christians have to abide by the law, participate in commerce that promotes justice and equality, and be change makers in systems that are broken.
Here's what I understand:
1. Companies or organizations that offer unpaid internships are required to restrict the scope of duties to be purely educational in nature. In other words, the internship should look more like an extended job shadowing. The law, I think, is trying to avoid someone in the active labor market being passed over for a paid position because companies are using unpaid
interns to do the same work- for FREE.
2. Companies or organizations that offer paid
internships are allowed to assign any work they want to interns, assuming they abide by other Federal labor regulations like meeting minimum wage requirements. Clear
? To read more, check out this New York Times article
This issue about internships brings up important issues about what it means to be Christians in the marketplace.
Are Christian employers required by law and God to uphold fair and ethical labor practices? Yes, of course- and more. Christian employers need to set the bar high for caring for its employees. Consider great companies founded by and run by followers of Jesus: In N Out
, Datron World Communications
...companies renowned for their reputation of taking care of the employees and going above-and-beyond.
The question becomes much trickier
, though, from the intern's point of view. What if I want to break into an industry or company, but the only clear route to gaining the experience, exposure and relationships I need to give myself a shot at a job is through an unethical and illegal internship?
What will you do? Let's figure this out together...
So you got hooked up and actually found an internship- congratulations. If you want to rock your internship, learn the most, impress the people and maybe get a full-time job offer, here are the top three things you must do:
1. Ask Good Questions: trust me, they are going to throw some stuff at you that you have no idea what they mean. Alignment, At the end of the day, Process Improvement, Box of Hamsters...What? I know you want to appear smart and come through on the "quick learner" part of your resume, but the worst thing you can do is avoid asking questions up front and then sit in your cubicle for hours, trying to Google what the heck you're supposed to do. I've done it! Even if your supervisor is an anxious personality, they are ultimately hoping and believing that you will be successful, so take a risk and clarify what they want you to do.
2. Discover What You Need: the first thing you should always ask yourself when you get an assignment is this: Have I done this successfully before today? If not, what do you need to learn or get from your supervisor? An example, a timeline, role playing, shadowing? Figure out what you need, and then go ask for it.
3. Go Above and Beyond: don't stop reading, I know this sounds basic. But, it is so rare these days for a young person, especially an intern, to go above and beyond what was asked for. As a generation, we've been taught to meet the 'Minimum Requirements' (think course syllabus). Get used to asking this question, first to yourself, and then out loud: "What else can I do?"
If you're an intern or had an internship in the past, what worked for you?
Almost daily I'm asked to help someone with a job search- college students looking for internships, recent grads looking for their first job, or friends in transition. I've realized over the past year something that doesn't work- playing according to the rules. I honestly can't think of anyone that I know who's secured a good job by following the rules. Monster, Career Builder, Craigslist. Resumes, cover letters, cold calls. Those are the rules, and they aren't working.
The rules aren't working because there are lots and lots of people who are more qualified than you. That's what happens in an economic situation like we're in. More people are out of work and more people are willing to take less pay than you. So, what works, then?
I'm wondering if you can change the rules, just a little bit. Change the typical conversation, from a diagnostic test on your qualifications and competencies, and move it into who you are and what you can promise about yourself. Who are you? What can you actually promise is true about you that would make an organization take a chance on hiring you and investing in you? And I'm not just suggesting bullet points, I'm talking about stories. When we start engaging with stories, we can start figuring out the most important thing- do we like each other? Can we imagine spending the majority of our waking time- together?
"If you hire me, I promise that I'm someone who will creatively solves problems. For instance, in an internship I had in college..."
So, if you find yourself in the job search, try changing the rules a little. Do the normal stuff and try to get in front of someone with hiring power, but when you do, clearly articulate who you are and what you can promise.
Need more help with this? Email me
and I'll send you a worksheet that gets you ready for this type of conversation.
For all students and young people out there, did you know that the experience you're gaining as campus ministry leaders is exceptional leadership training that employers want you to have?
The problem, we know, is how to communicate it clearly. We can't just say: "Bible Study Leader". How about calling it: "Faith-Based Small Group Discussion Leader" with a skill set like: event planning, excellent verbal communication skills, recruitment of new members, marketing and advertising, responsible, conflict resolution- to name a few. Check out this worksheet
that an InterVarsity staff member from Northern California put together to help student leaders write good resumes and translate their skills to the professional world. If you need help thinking this through, don't hesitate to ask us