Searching for a job. Handing out resumes. Setting up informational interviews. Writing thank you notes. We’ve all been there – the challenging (and occasionally exhilarating!) world of the job search. Given all of the frustration and hard work involved in searching for a job, would you pay to have someone else take care of it for you? For your kids?
Today’s article discusses the growing number of students paying thousands of dollars for unpaid summer internships at prestigious companies. While companies like the “University of Dreams” laud their efforts to “facilitate” students’ internship searches and match them with the right companies, I believe they are doing students a huge disservice.
Now, if you’re like most parents, you’re probably saying, “My job is to protect my kid and provide them with the best life possible. If I can prevent them from going through the misery of a job search and secure them a great career opportunity at the same time, why not?”
While we all complain about searching for a job from time to time, the process of doing so teaches important skills: Persistence. Resume writing. The ability to deal with rejection. Accountability. Networking skills. Resourcefulness. Maintaining a positive attitude. Interview skills. ALL of these skills are important and can benefit students in their future career, and ALL of these skills are rendered unnecessary by expensive internship placement services.
What is more, internship placement services foster a dangerous sense of entitlement in students. When parents pay for these services, students are simply “handed” a job at a prestigious firm without having to do any work – a job based not on their merits, but on the fact that their family can afford this costly service.
My advice? As your students move ever closer to entering the job world, don’t “buy” an internship to ease their transition – let them dive into the job search on their own two feet. Of course, you can prepare them in a very different way: let them know you’re behind them all the way, and make sure they have the emotional intelligence, persistence and humility to succeed.
Unpaid Work, but They Pay for Privilege
Chang W. Lee/The New York Times
With paying jobs so hard to get in this weak market, a lot of college graduates would gladly settle for a nonpaying internship. But even then, they are competing with laid-off employees with far more experience.
So growing numbers of new graduates — or, more often, their parents — are paying thousands of dollars to services that help them land internships.
Call these unpaid internships that you pay for.
“It’s kind of crazy,” said David Gaston, director of the University of Kansas career center. “The demand for internships in the past 5, 10 years has opened up this huge market. At this point, all we can do is teach students to understand that they’re paying and to ask the right questions.”
Not that the parents are complaining. Andrew Topel’s parents paid $8,000 this year to a service that helped their son, a junior at the University of Tampa, get a summer job as an assistant at Ford Models, a top agency in New York.
“It would’ve been awfully difficult” to get a job like that, said Andrew’s father, Avrim Topel, “without having a friend or knowing somebody with a personal contact.” Andrew completed the eight-week internship in July and was invited to return for another summer or to interview for a job after graduation.
Andrew’s parents used a company called the University of Dreams, the largest and most visible player in an industry that has boomed in recent years as internship experience has become a near-necessity on any competitive entry-level résumé.
The company says it saw a spike in interest this year due to the downturn, as the number of applicants surged above 9,000, 30 percent higher than in 2008. And unlike prior years, the company says, a significant number of its clients were recent graduates, rather than the usual college juniors.
The program advertises a guaranteed internship placement, eight weeks of summer housing, five meals a week, seminars and tours around New York City for $7,999. It has a full-time staff of 45, and says it placed 1,600 student interns in 13 cities around the world this year, charging up to $9,450 for a program in London and as little as $5,499 in Costa Rica.
The money goes to the University of Dreams and the other middlemen like it. Officials at the company say they are able to wrangle hard-to-get internships for their clients because they have developed extensive working relationships with a variety of employers. They also have an aggressive staff who know who to call where. Their network of contacts, they say, is often as crucial as hard work in professional advancement.