No pay? No play.

24 June 2020

Looks Like I Hit A Nerve: My Internship Policy

by Freddy Tran Nager, Founder Of Atomic Tango + Guy Who Believes Everyone Should Get Paid For Their Work…

As a professor with hundreds of smart, hard working students every year, I get hit up by employers seeking interns. And I’m usually eager to help, since my students deserve every opportunity to succeed. (On a self-serving note, their success boosts my reputation as well.)

But I finally got fed up with the internships “for college credit” nonsense. Not only is it obscene to ask people to work for free — especially if it’s menial labor — on top of that, students often have to pay their universities for those credits. Yes, that’s right: paying for the amazing experience of making photocopies.

I explained my stance in this LinkedIn post:

LinkedIn post about my internship policy

As you can see, the post scored some responses, primarily from students from all over the world (not just my own). You can see their comments on LinkedIn here.

But I was particularly happy to see responses from older professionals, because the end of exploitation begins with those of us in position to do something about it. Students want to get paid for their time and labor, of course, but most have little bargaining power at a job interview. So even if we’re not hiring, we’re often tasked with recruiting or referring, so let’s speak up.

In addition to protecting students, saying no to unpaid internships protects older workers who might have been hired if the “credit only” option were not available to employers. And if they start getting paid, the rewards ripple up the ladder. (I’m a big believer in ripple up instead of pissing trickle-down economics.)

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Freddy is the Founder & Creative Strategist of Atomic Tango. He also teaches graduate-level marketing communication courses at the University of Southern California (go Trojans!), shoots pool somewhat adequately, and herds cats. Freddy received his BA from Harvard and his MBA from USC.

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