Occupational slavery?

by SixFigureStart | May 06, 2009

  • My Vault
Call it the dirty little secret of business in the recessional era.

Interns are finding themselves increasingly treated just like a regular worker, with longer hours and more demanding responsibilities than they've perhaps experienced at prior intern gigs. But this stint grants them a smaller paycheck than a typical 9-to-5er. This week,BusinessWeek reports on the phenomenon of intern abuse, wherein management squeezes as much work out of a low-level employee as it possibly can (without triggering an inquiry from Amnesty International). One of BW's sources says that with company budgets already under pressure, a lot of organizations are hiring two or more interns to do the work of one (now former) employee. And one of the so-called "perma interns" reports that he handled sensitive information that would never be trusted to the low person on the totem pole in normal circumstances.

Fortunately for business (and consequently, unfortunately for the average worker), there is a growing pool of candidates who think that, without a "real" job, an internship, even an unpaid one, is better than nothing. Furthermore, even workers with years of experience under their belts are more apt to intern now as a means to sidle into a new industry. True, an internship could serve to expand your social and career networks. But it won't automatically make you more attractive to your employer of choice, and if it leads to a "perma intern" gig, the months you spent in service with little monetary benefit may make recruiters question your judgment. So, caveat operarius

--Posted by Todd Obolsky, Vault Staff Writer

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