Working as an intern can be a great way to gain industry experience and bridge the one-to-three years of experience gap that’s now often a requirement for “entry-level” positions.
The trouble with internships, however, is the lack of standardization of the term, which can lead to some serious muddy area for those Finding to gain footing in their career. And unfortunately, there are companies out there who are taking advantage of inexperienced job Finders by providing “internship” positions that are exploitative and illegal.
I’ve been on the good end and the bad end of the internship stick. On the good end, I was paid above minimum wage, worked only within my contracted hours, and provided with a great industry education. On the bad end, I was unpaid, overworked, received little relevant industry experience and no letter of reference.
How did I let myself end up in such a bad employment situation? All I can chalk it up to was that my job hunting desperation clouded my judgment and caused me to make a rash, ill-informed decision, and I trusted that the position my employer was offering was in line with the law.
According to Claire Seaborn, qualified lawyer in Ontario and founder of the Canadian Intern Association, that burden should be on the employer: “The employer should know that the program they’re running is legal,” she says.
And yet, I still wound up accepting a role at a company that capitalized on my lack of experience, simply because I was misguided as to what the term “intern” entailed.
What exactly should I have considered when seeking an internship? How could I have avoided this situation? Ms. Seaborn recommended a few tips for getting informed and protecting yourself.
Fortunately, there are some excellent organizations out there that provide students and recent grads with internship opportunities that are both educational and lucrative. Unfortunately, the cloudiness surrounding the term “intern” can make these opportunities more difficult to find.
Launching your career isn’t always a straight trajectory, but having the right information up your sleeve can help protect you from landing in a potentially harmful situation.
After all, you wouldn’t build a bridge without a blueprint, right?