Opinion: Working For Free

by Cougar News Staff 400 views2

Time is money.  So why should anyone work for free?  I’m a firm believer that experience in the workforce is more valuable than anything you will ever learn in a classroom.  I’m not saying quit school for work, that’s absurd.  Studies show that college graduates make nearly twice the money high school graduates do on average in their lifetimes.

What I am saying is that students need to apply those skills in the real world before they begin sending out resumes. The benefits to college internships are endless but I think there are three that stand out the most.  First, students who expand their college education by taking it out of the classroom ensure that they really do want to work in the field they are gearing up to enter. Second, employers are more forgiving of an intern’s mistake than they are of an employee’s mistake. And last, students who have experience in any given field often find it easier to get a job.

Internships are a great way for students to not only gain experience, but first and foremost make sure that they’re actually going to school for an education they will use after graduation.  I can’t think of anything worse than spending years going to school and thousands of dollars on an education that will simply go to waste.

Plenty of recent graduates are working in fields unrelated to their college major.  But maybe it’s not by choice.  The job market is tough and a lot of people just take what they can get to pay the bills. However, very often college graduates decide they don’t want work in the field they’ve been studying and realize after graduation that they’ve wasted years in college.  This is a big reason why students should think about getting an internship early on.

A while back I was interning in a small newsroom when the producer told me, “If I was paying you, you’d be fired.”

I was writing a story about a brush fire that had broken out right before the newscast was set to hit the air.  I misstated a key fact in my script after speaking with a fire official over the phone.  Fortunately, the producer had enough sense to double-check my facts before the anchor read the story.

I made a mistake, I was young, inexperienced and under pressure.  I turned a 15-acre fire into a 50-acre fire.  I couldn’t read my notes and I couldn’t remember exactly what was said to me, so rather than calling back to check, I wrote what I thought I was told.  Big mistake. But sometimes you need to make a mistake once before you never make it again.  You can bet that next time I was on the phone, I took the extra moment to print clearly and double check facts before I turned my story in.

And finally, getting a foot in the door is often difficult for young people looking to land a career.  A report from MyWebTimes.com claims that more than half of U.S. graduates move back home after college.  Why? Because they can’t get a job.

Getting a job is competitive.  Graduates who don’t have experience find it difficult to show potential employers how much they are worth.  A strong resume demonstrates experience and is backed by professional references who advocate your abilities.  That resume, coupled with a reliable track record, is key to landing a job.  So how do you gain that experience and collect references?  Get out there, land an internship and prove yourself.

Despite some beliefs not all interns work for free.  There are plenty of businesses, even local ones, which offer paid internships.  I admit they are few and far between but experience in a professional workplace is more valuable in the long run than a minimum wage paycheck at the end of the week.  Plus, if an intern takes their job seriously and makes the right impression, they may just be a shoe-in for the next entry-level opening.

Having internship experience can not only help you to land a good job but can also help you advance more quickly among the ranks.  Proving resourcefulness and know how are the first steps to moving up the ladder of success. First you need to be given a chance and second you need to know what to do with that chance.  An internship can afford you both.

  • Laurel Masamitsu

    The topic that is addressed is highly relatable to not only CoC students but also students from other college campuses. The highlight of this article is the personal story of the author. The addition of that anecdote gives the article the “I’ve been there” feeling some students seek.
    Some very good points are made in this article. The first of which is the fact that internships enable students to test the environment of the desired field. Another point that is made is that internships provide an applicable edge for future interviews. The final point that is made is that students should apply for internships even if there is no pay.

  • Eric Holzmann

    I enjoyed this article very much. I hate how people of this time and era go to school full time and do not work because they want to focus just on getting good grades. School is so overrated and the young adults of our time need to start working and interning more. Like you stated, “why pay all of this money on school when you don’t even know you will enjoy the career you are wanting to get into?”. Working is just as important as going to college.