There was a time when students could find internships based on their hard work, good grades, and fantastic résumés. Unfortunately with the current recession and high unemployment rates there are fewer jobs available. This means that more college students and graduates are searching for internships. In fact, the demand for quality internships is around 20% higher than it was last year; so it should be no surprise that the newest way to find an internship is to buy one. More and more for-profit internship placement agencies are popping up. These internships are typically at well-known companies, such as Rolling Stone, Elle, or fashion houses like Donna Karan, and can range from $2,000 to $12,000.
What about the kids who don’t have the money to pay for a prestigious internship? One school of thought holds that paying for an internship actually evens the playing field; that if you come from a wealthy family chances are you have some personal or political connections that can help you anyway. This way, it’s not about whom you know, just about how much you can pay. And many parents are digging deep to help their kids. According to an article in WSJ.com, "a one-week internship at a music-production company sold last month for $12,000." That’s a lot of money for a week of working for free.
Another part of this trend is auctioning off internships for charity. Many charities have been hit hard by the recession. This could be a win-win, good for the charities and the company gets some free labor, but, is it good for the students forking out thousands of dollars in the hopes of learning something?
Few people can argue with contributing to charity, but what about the companies which are suddenly realizing that offering internships can be an additional revenue stream? Now that people are paying, companies may begin to form internship programs solely as a way to raise money. If you can get some really great experience then working for free can be worth it. But, will internships that simply exist to raise money for companies having a hard time making ends meet actually provide enough good experience?
If you do decide to open your wallet to get your foot in the door, here are a few companies to check out:
University of Dreams
Applicants must be 18 to 26 years old, full-time students and have a minimum grade point average of 2.5 to participate in the program. Applicants can pay in full, apply for financial aid or finance payments with processing fees of 3 percent. Costs range from $5,000 to $10,000. According to the website, “Programs include internship placement, housing, weekend activities, meals, transportation, career seminars, resume revision, interview coaching and more.”
This may sound like a lot for your money, but think about it: an eight-week internship in New York costs $7999. That comes out to $1000 a week. Two months rent in New York might cost you $2000 (and that’s being really generous, a quick look at Craig’s List shows rooms for rent for anywhere from $125 to $1050 a month).
The list of possible internships is pretty impressive: Glamour, InStyle, Chanel, DKNY, Tribeca Film, but there are also less exclusive companies listed. To get the entire list of internships offered you have to apply, be accepted, and, of course, pay. The University of Dreams guarantees you an internship of your choice or your money back, but be sure to read the fine print. The University of Dreams only requires a 2.5 GPA but that doesn’t mean a high-profile company won’t want someone a little more stellar.
Fast Track Internships
Fast Track produces slick marketing campaigns about you and they guarantee you receive at least one internship offer. The Fast Track website claims they “make it simple for students to access unadvertised internships in their desired field and location.” Fast Track charges $799 to get you an unpaid internship, $999 for a paid internship, and $1999 for a full-time job for new graduates.
CharityFolks.com and CharityBuzz.com have bidding for internships. A quick search brought up a few internships, for example, one day at the New York Times starts at $1,000. The last “open” auction at this time is a summer 2009 internship at Deutsch advertising agency in New York City, valued at $3,500. Past auctions include internships at Donna Karan, Norma Kamali, Rolling Stone, Iconix Brand Group, Treehugger.com and more.
Washington Internship Program
WIP places undergraduate, graduate, and college graduates in the nation’s capital for a semester. The cost is $3,400 but the WIP offers scholarships and a job-bank of part-time paid employment. Plus, you can receive college credit for this program.
Students select internships according to their areas of interest, like government or the media. International relations, journalism, law, medicine, public relations, business, the arts, science and technology, education, and counseling are among the many specialties that students pursue.
How does it really look?
As more and more companies begin charging to place students in competitive internships, will future employers become more wary about internships at exclusive companies? Will potential employers begin asking if you paid your way in? And, will an internship that you paid for look the same on your resume as a traditional internship? What is going to happen when some companies get reputations for taking interns for the right price? Will your time working at these companies still hold the same value to future employers?
As of right now it’s hard to say, but before you agree to spend thousands of dollars on anything you should do the proper research. Make sure you receive an agreement stating that you will you get the internship you want and that you will learn something. It’s not only where you’ve worked, it’s also what you know. And if all you learned from a month at a big name magazine is how to make coffee and kiss butt that’s not really going to help you down the line.
On the other hand, if a company invests time in you they may be tempted to hire you (especially if you really impress them). But the best thing about working for a high-profile company is the potential to meet people who can help you.
In today’s economy getting an internship is becoming a necessity. So if you have exhausted the cheaper (and often free) methods of searching you might want to consider this as an additional investment in your future. Who knows? Someday parents might start saving for your internship the same way they now save for your college education.
Cara Newman is the editor of Young Money.
If you live around Baltimore, MD and are interested in interning at Young Money, a national magazine, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.