Monday, October 28, 2013

Working for Free

 I would just like to have a quick chat about the Condé Nast-internship debacle. To bring you up to speed, Condé Nast (big, important magazine company) announced last week that they are ending their famed unpaid internship program. This Refinery 29 article showed some of the reactions from people in the industry and I must say, for the most part, they make me angry. 

A reaction that makes sense:

One that does not and makes my blood boil:

To address the downside of terminating this program: Yes, having an internship at a magazine is a wonderful way to make connections, gain experience, and be in the right place at the right time for when an entry-level position opens up. It's a way to get your foot in the door without needing to have an excessive amount of previous experience. 

HOWEVER, there is NO reason why this "opportunity" should be unpaid. The industry's outlook on interns is that they are lucky to be there, they should be thankful that they've been given this chance  and they should feel fortunate and grateful. 

But let's look a little closer, shall we? Interns are completely exploited to do free work for these companies. FREE! Why is the practice of someone working 8-12 hours a day 5 days a week for a company without any compensation being seen by our society as the company doing them a favor? 

To have a full-time, unpaid internship means that you have to have the funds to pay rent in NYC, food and transportation without an income. The concept is 100% geared towards wealthy, privileged college students who can afford to do so. So then you might say that no one is forcing you to get an internship. But guess what? False. Internships are such a norm now that no one would hire you, even for an entry-level position, unless you have several of them on your resume. The worst part of this all is that, because unpaid internships are technically illegal, they "pay" you in college credits. So what if, say, you graduate college and still don't have enough internship experience (me)? Tough luck. No one will take you on because you are no longer applicable for college credit. But no one will hire you because you don't have enough internship experience. So this horrible cycle continues until you find a place that will let you intern ("let"??) for free.  

So moral of the story is, I completely support this movement against internships. Obviously Condé Nast will still need someone to go get their coffee, make copies and pack boxes, but whoever is doing that will now be getting paid. With such a huge corporation making a stand (not that this was a political statement on their part, more of a way to prevent future law suits) this will completely change the whole culture of pre-career careers. What will be the new internship? Will we revert back to the days of yore when you had an apprenticeship and learnt from Masters in a symbiotic relationship to hone your craft and add to their inventory? 

Last weekend I attended Teen Vogue Fashion University, and hearing the reaction from the other girls on this subject in our Facebook group was insane. The majority of them are in highschool and went to this workshop in the hopes of finding a way into the Teen Vogue internship program (a Condé Nast publication). Networking to the extreme, these girls were ravenous for tips on how to make your resume stand out, which the Teen Vogue editors were giving plenty of advice (because little did they know). Following the announcement, these girls were making the interns who are currently suing Condé Nast the enemies! In reactions not unlike slut-shaming, they were blaming the victims of exploitation as the demons who "ruined" it for the rest of them.  One girl wrote, "Two self-righteous people single-handedly ruining it for everyone else the industry. Sigh." Another added "This is so frustrating, like thanks so much to all the whiny lazy interns who made this possible" and "So many important people in the fashion industry started out as interns. This is horrible."

Well guess what, people ADAPT. This is not the end of the world, it will just mean that more PAID entry-level positions will open up that will need less experience.  

Agree? Disagree?


  1. I agree. Seriously it's not like these companies can't afford to add an extra low wage employee or two