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...
I'm in love with golf. I play courses in my imagination while I go to sleep. I play golf as often as I can. I bought my son a set of golf clubs just after he learned how to walk. I engineer my work schedule around golf. I've taken trips just to play golf. And, I'm one of the rare golfers who loves watching golf on tv. Admittedly, I've watched nearly every round of professional golf in 2012 (that's Thursday-Sunday, every week). This week happens to be my favorite week of the year- the Masters. While I watch the Masters on tv, I also have it streaming live on my computer AND iPad- count that, three different views of the tournament. (Yes, I have the Masters app on my phone, too, for when I'm on the road...)
I love golf.
What do you love?
What are you passionate about?
I have friends who share the same level of passion for the stock market, for running marathons, for basketball, for cooking, and for art.
What are you supposed to do with those passions? Should they inform and shape what career path you choose?
Or maybe not.
Maybe your passions are supposed to guide you in your work. Or maybe they're supposed to stay on the sidelines- as hobbies, interests, and the weekend. Maybe, and most likely, God's given you passions for you to enjoy life and participate in enjoying the world He's created.
What do you think?
I will not name names, but I was extremely surprised to meet a student recently who just graduated and came to me looking for help in figuring out his first career steps.
I asked him what he was thinking about, and he shrugged.
I asked him what his plan was, and he said he didn't have one.
Before I could clarify, he explained that the reason he didn't have a plan was because he had been busy...with school...
...for 18 years?
I shouldn't be surprised anymore, because this is a conversation I get into frequently, almost daily. Students who just graduated or who are about to graduate and have NO CLUE what they're going to do next.
Something is definitely broken.
Maybe something's broken with the way we're being educated. Or maybe the economy has scared everyone. Or maybe it's parenting. Or social media. I have no idea. But, we definitely have a problem.
Students switch majors on a whim.
Seniors about to graduate have never worked before.
Young people have never done an informational interview or been mentored.
They. have. no. plan.
No, I'm not feeling cranky. I'm concerned!
What do students need to learn, experience, and know before they graduate to transition well?
I know that many college students and recent grads are overwhelmed by the dismal job market that's reported on ad nauseam via news sources. But let me tell you something: THERE ARE JOBS OUT THERE FOR YOU.
Well, maybe I should qualify that. There are jobs out there for young people (with a college degree) who have:
- Clarity, conviction and passion about who they are and what they're looking for
- Professional acumen
- Social skills
Specifically, let's address the professionalism that you'll need in order to set yourself up well for a job search- professionalism that will set you apart from your peers because HARDLY ANYONE KNOWS WHAT TO DO:
: when a professional contact or friend gives you the name, number or email of someone and tells/asks you to get in touch with them- DO IT!!! I can't tell you how many times I've had professional friends of mine bemoan the lack of follow through that a student took with an introduction they offered to them. 2. Confidence
: obviously you can't fake this, but you can lean into a confident attitude if you try. Confidence comes through via firm handshake, eye contact, asking good questions, and comfortable body language. 3. Gratitude
: it's so easy to do but so easy to forget- always, always, always thank someone for their time, for an introduction and for their advice (even if you don't take it!). My advice: send a thank-you email AND a physical note in the mail within 24 hours. 4. Active listening
: bad listening breeds mistrust and discourages someone from helping you. It comes in the form of checking your phone or sending a text during a meeting, avoiding eye contact, failing to ask questions or follow-up questions. And, of course, it comes in failing to follow-through.5. Don't waste time
: come prepared. Ask questions that show you did your research. Do your research. Don't interview if you have no intention of taking the internship or job. Don't interview if you don't have the time or capacity to take the job.
Look, people really want to help college student and recent grads (read this
). Help them, help you.
By the way, it's never too late to follow through, or to apologize for that matter. If you've violated one of these principles, that's okay- own it, apologize, and see if there's still graciousness in your direction. Humility goes a long way in building friendships and relationships that last. It's also a great
Are you trying to figure out what to do with your life- still?
I was sitting with a seasoned bank executive this week having a conversation with him and four college students, and he said something that really stuck out:
"It's a little less relevant than we think it is about the specific job we do. Rather, have a development mindset, find a job at a big company, and go get the core skills you need to be successful for your perfect job down the road.
He thinks that everyone-no matter what you end up doing- needs to have a basic skillset of competencies:
Working in teams.
Working with deadlines.
What if your focus right now shifted from trying to figure out your personality, strengths and passions and a little bit more towards a great job search?
I can't put a number to it, but I'm guessing that 50% of the people I talk to about their future careers don't really know what direction they're headed in or what they want to do. And, I can't really think of someone who doesn't know what they want to do in the future but is really motivated to take the next step. Not knowing tends to de-motivate people in their job search. Are you in that 50%?
Here's what I really want to say to you: PICK SOMETHING!!!
- What classes in college do you enjoy more than the others? What career field might that lead you into?
- What's on your resume that you are proud of or particularly liked?
- Is there an older person that you look up to and respect what they do?
- Do you have a job offer or opportunity already?
Honestly, you have to pick something. You have to get a job. You have to pay your bills. You have to move on.
One of the most helpful ways to explore and discover what you want to do is experiment and try something. Just apply and say "yes".
We'll figure out the next step together when you get there, ok?
I absolutely love connecting college students to professionals in fields they're interested in working in. I love writing recommendations and promoting for friends. I LOVE it when I can be a small part of helping someone find a new mentor, friend, internship or job. Love it!
But, honestly, I can't always give a glowing recommendation. I wish I could. Especially when people ask me to connect them with someone for a job opening, I think the standards have to be pretty high. So, I just thought I'd throw this out there.
Here is what I'd love to say about you:
This isn't the whole list, but these are a few things I would love to say about you. What would you add?
- Above-and-Beyond: this student is the type of person who does whatever it takes to do a great job
- Initiative: this student is the type of person who doesn't need to be asked or told what to do
- Integrity: there's no question about their integrity- they always follow through on their values
- Humble: this student doesn't have a big head or come across as arrogant- they are the type that know that when you're new in an organization you need to do a great job at the fundamentals and pay their dues. They won't ask for time off on the first day or first month- they'll do the job
- Learner: they are a quick learner and always asking questions to get better
- Servant: they are the type to pick up the trash, stay late to make copies, run out to get coffee, and take on the tough assignments
- Teammate: this student is a great member of a team, knows how to build authentic relationships and focus on tasks to get the job done well
- Leader: this student is a natural influencer, knows how to influence others and takes opportunity to influence others towards good
College students are like puppies to old people- no one can resist how adorable they are. Here's how it goes, a college student starts a conversation with an adult- any adult- and shares how she is thinking about her future, maybe an internship or a job after college and the adult is instantly drawn to want to help. Old people LOVE to reminisce about their transition from college to adulthood, they love to share about how it used to be and what they did to land their first job. They love to give advice, they love to introduce you to others, and they love to invite you to their office to meet up. Old people are full of great things like advice, wisdom, internships, friendship, mentoring, job connections, etc.
So, college student (or recent college grad)- you are adorable to old people. Please, let them love you:
- When an old person asks you about your future, don't say "I don't know". Be ready to give some sort of answer, from "I'm thinking about going into marketing" to "I'm not really sure what I plan on doing, but I'm going to use this next semester to explore my options, maybe do a few informational interviews, job shadow someone, and get an internship." Old people love to hear that you have some sort of plan, even if you don't really.
- Always, always ask: "What do you think?" This isn't just to garner the old person's favor, but because they have really useful tidbits of info for you. And, you might just get their favor, too.
- Ask old people if they'd be willing to let you call them or email them sometime, maybe for advice or for an informational interview. They will say 'yes'.
- Avoid being annoying to old people and affirming their stereotypes about you: return their phone calls or emails within 24 hours, show up early to appointments, don't chew gum, proofread your emails, bring a resume with you, don't look at or think about answering a text when in a meeting, and always send a thank you note immediately afterward.
- Ask old people if they have any friends that they would be willing to introduce you to, then follow up with their introductions.
It's not about getting something from old people. It's about realizing how they see you and want to help you. It's giving them a chance to care for you, and it's about allowing the older generation to pass along their gifts. Most college students hesitate to reach out to older people (fear of being a burden, fear or annoying them...), but trust me- they love you.
There is definitely a reluctant and hesitant thread in Gen Y folks, a hesitance to be a nuisance or bother to someone. I've been hanging out with a lot of college students looking for internships and recent grads in a job search season, and a theme that comes up in every single conversation we have is a fear or anxiety about coming across as pushy or needy. My response is always this: "Maybe I'm a unique case, but there has never been anyone who has even come close to bothering me or emailing me/texting me/calling me too often or too much." Even though that's true, I can still relate to the fear in coming across that way. First, some thoughts on the importance of being earnest and persistent:
- It's a spiritual principle that Jesus wanted to highlight as being very important (see Luke 18) both in dealing with God in prayer and with other people
- For me, the people I've heard from or talked to most recently are closest on my radar to be generous with
- Waiting for someone to notice you, remember you, or think of you- especially when they haven't seen you lately- is a bad theory
- Being persistent is a quality that every recruiter and organization values, and you being persistent is part of them seeing you as a potential good fit for them
- Persistence in reaching out to someone creates room for creativity along the way- they might not have a job for you but remember a friend mentioning that their company is hiring...
It's not just being earnest and persistence that's important, it's also key to be pleasant while you do so. Here are some examples of being pleasantly persistent...
- Starting an email with, "Hopefully I'm not crossing the line of contacting you again too soon, but I wanted to make sure you had the chance to see my previous email..."
- Or, "I want to thank you again for the opportunity to apply for the open position at your company, and follow up from my previous note. When would be a good time to come in and interview?"
Most young people will send one email or leave one message and wait for a response, never reaching out again. I would suggest that that is a very bad idea! When I asked a friend recently how many emails he receives on a given work day, he said 400+/- is the norm. Therefore, you shouldn't be too surprised that your email was missed. How about if you send an email on Tuesday, trying again the following Monday? How about if you leave a voicemail, calling again in three days? Then, after three or four attempts, let it go.
You might feel like you're being a pest, but I PROMISE that you won't be seen that way. In fact, most people will appreciate the reminder and apologize for not getting back to you more quickly. You might even get on their radar screen and get that interview you're hoping for...
Since many students are graduating this week and in the coming weeks, I thought it would be appropriate to send a reminder of these helpful tips for graduating students:
I spend a lot of time these days with recent grads, young people who are feeling the crunch- without a job, watching their savings run out and their parents patience run dry. I've been realizing that having conversations about their next steps after they graduate is a few months too late. So, I've been thinking about what I would say to a student who is about to graduate. Here are my 5 must-do Senior year actions:
: admit where you are panicked, scared, freaked-out, and intimidated by the monumental decisions you face and the lack of direction you have. From a spiritual perspective, prayer starts when we admit our helplessness. So, even though it seems like all of your friends have it figured out (they don't), don't get stuck in your fear but confess it, invite other people to support you, and ask God to guide you.
: the beginning of a good discernment process for your future is to reflect on your unique strengths and abilities. What do you really enjoy doing? When do you lose track of time? What would you do if you could do anything? What are you most deeply passionate about? What skills do you have that could translate into a job? What would your close friends and family say about you? Let us know if you'd like someone to help you with that, through a Career Coach
: pursue wisdom from other people. Recent grads who are friends of yours, parents, friends of your parents, friends of yours at church, your pastor, the Bible- look for wisdom for life after college. Use the worksheets on the Resources page to d
: stay engaged where you are. The most critical character attribute you can develop for the "real world" is the ability to stay focused and engaged where you are. There is ALWAYS going to be something on the horizon to think about, dream about, and consider, but you still have a job to do and that job is to be a really good student. I am challenged by the verse in the scriptures that says, "He who is faithful will little will be entrusted with much." Don't neglect your current goals, tasks and responsibilities.
5. Take Risks
: I don't know of anyone who is successful who has avoided taking serious risks. I don't know of anyone who's done something meaningful with his/her life and career who hasn't taken a lot of risks. I can't think of someone being faithful to the call of Jesus that doesn't take risks all the time. Build your risk-muscles now.
--What do you think is critical to do and think about before you graduate?