An internship is a critical entry point into the workforce, and access, or lack thereof, to such opportunities can have lasting consequences for students. That’s one reason we’re focusing on college campuses — an important intersection between prospective interns and the larger intern economy — trying to document the implications of the “experiential learning” students are doing, or aren’t able to do, while they’re in college.

Propublica is sending their intern to document interns after asking the public for money to fund this venture.

And already out of the gate they’re sharing myths like this. Why is this not being properly vetted? Who’s editing this? Paid internships lead to jobs, but those are substantially rarer than unpaid internships.

Back your shit up, guys. Show us sources. Don’t just say shit like this.

#AndItsUnpaid: Help Us Flag Unpaid (And Absurd) Internship Listings

Ever see an internship listing and think, “there is no way that’s legal”? We have, too. We’re rounding up the most questionable (and ridiculous) unpaid internship posts you come across — from a Los Angeles bakery looking for an experienced cook to decorate confections for free, to a Manhattanite seeking an unpaid “house intern” to water plants.

What makes an unpaid internship potentially illegal? Check the Labor Department’s six criteria for unpaid internships.

Then flag any listings that strike you as possibly illegal by:

* submitting them on our Tumblr

* tweeting us with the hashtag #AndItsUnpaid

* or emailing getinvolved@propublica.org

Please be sure to include a link to the listing as well as a screen grab or image of the web page, if possible. We’ll be curating them here.

Should the government give out loans for unpaid internships?

In a recent Boston Globe column, Harvard economist Edward L. Glaeser floats the idea of giving loans to students (or even recent graduates) to make unpaid internships more feasible. “With a loan program in place, more widespread unpaid internships could help move young Americans toward permanent employment,” he writes. “Internships provide a pathway towards employment that should be encouraged — not penalized.”

But in a rebuttal on The Atlantic, Senior Associate Editor Jordan Weismann says such a proposal would mean the government essentially would be giving companies a pass for providing paid on-the-job training to entry-level workers. “There was a time in this country when corporations were actually expected to train and pay their entry level employees,” he writes. “But now, apparently, that’s beyond the realm of imagination.” 

What do you think? Would loans level the playing field for unpaid internships, or only create more problems in the long run? Let us know in the comments.

What's it like to be a 40-year-old intern?

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An internship can be a segue between college and careers for many students just starting out — but twenty-somethings aren’t the only players in the intern economy. As a way to change careers or to transition back into the workforce, plenty of older adults have attempted stints as interns, too.

Such positions are not without challenges, though. As one woman who took on an unpaid internship after being laid off from her previous job, which she held for eight years, told the Wall Street Journal in 2009: “There’s no way I could do this if I wasn’t receiving unemployment.” (The 33-year-old was collecting about $400 per week in unemployment insurance and had also recently moved in with two other roommates in order to save $1,600 per month, WSJ reported.)

We’re interested to hear from you: If you’ve held an internship later in life, what was it like? How did you make it work? Let us know in the comments.

"I actually got a paid opportunity out of it, you know, a year later, after I graduated. But then going on to get paid for that same work, I realized, why wasn’t I getting paid for this before?” — Lucy Bickerton, a former unpaid intern with the “Charlie Rose” show, who filed a class-action lawsuit against Rose and his production company. (The suit ended with a $110,000 settlement, which included $60,000 in intern back pay.) 

Watch Bickerton talk about her experience in this Newshour video: a must-watch piece to get grounded on the debate about the ethics of unpaid internships.

For the most part, employers don’t recognize that there is a law, and the details of it. They just don’t know.
— 

Turns out, some employers will start paying interns if the school just alerts them to the law. Read more in the Wall Street Journal’s piece on the New York Institute of Technology.

Help people understand how your school handles unpaid internships by sharing your story with ProPublica.

#ProjectIntern Hits the Road to Capture College Intern Stories

Casey McDermott, Penn State journalism alum, ProPublica intern (paid!)

Three months ago, ProPublica launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise enough money to hire an intern to travel the country and document stories of the emerging intern economy.

Well, they succeeded – and now #ProjectIntern is hitting the road.

I’m Casey McDermott, and this week I am setting off on that cross-country trip to collect interns’ stories. (Meta, I know.)

Our goal here is pretty simple: We want to make the conversation about internships (more) personal.

Read More

Speaking to The Wire, a Mother Jones public affairs official responds to claims in a Vice piece about compensation at that publication and other media organizations. (The piece included an anonymous comment from a former intern who said they were encouraged to sign up for food stamps.) Future Mother Jones fellows are also set to see a pay raise next year, the official said: “…as of January 1, our 2014 budget increases the base fellowship stipend to $1,500—an amount equivalent to slightly more than California minimum wage.”

How do unpaid interns make it work?

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Some interns say they learned to strategically invest in bananas for breakfast

The Billfold posed this question to 14 interns, past and present. Their responses include tales of taking on extra jobs, rationing out footlong Subway sandwiches, strategically investing in bananas (“4x$1!”) for breakfast and learning not to underestimate the power of asking for a free lunch.

One of the luckier ones, who stuck it out through a stint as an unpaid intern for academic credit and then found a paying position, writes: “I feel like I captured a New York media unicorn.”

We’re interested to hear from others who’ve been in this position: If you were (or are) an unpaid intern, how did you make it work? Do you have any advice for others in that position? Let us know in the comments.

(Photo: Creative Commons)

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