TMR posted what I thought was a great article about the unpaid internship. While it has been a controversial topic since the interns from the movie Black Swan first sued Fox last year and now with Conde Nast ending their internship program - I stand by the benefits and experience that internships, even when unpaid, withstand.
Not yet being out of college, I have had my fair share of internships, both paid and unpaid, more of the former than the latter - and I can't imagine where I would be without them. While yes, there are some ethical issues concerning not paying your intern while he/she performs menial tasks that even a grade schooler could do, you are letting them observe an environment that they could have otherwise never been able to see. And lets be honest, not all unpaid internships are like this, actually none of mine have.
First, let's address how working at magazine is a tough job - period. Not only for the interns, but for the fashion assistants, the editors, the photographers and basically every human being that steps foot in the publishing house. You think it's hard taking that garment bag across town? Try working full-time at a magazine where major responsibility and millions of dollars hover over you 999% of the time. How's that for pressure?
Second, you say that it puts people with less financial means at a disadvantage? Save. If this is what you really want to do in life, you will find a way. You say you already work part time and pay for your school as well? Work for a summer, full-time, and save that money for your next summer. In fact work during winter time and save. There are so many options out there for students across the country coming into the city to intern, co-op housing, roommates, dorms - the possibilities are endless! A lot of the interns that I worked alongside in the city weren't trust fund kids nor were they sitting in a pile of cash. What I did find at my internships were people that were driven and passionate about what they wanted to do.
Lastly, you really do learn. Although most of my days interning in the fashion industry weren't a walk in the park, I learned so much. I learned how to work in a fast pace environment, how to have a thick skin, the ins and outs of the industry, how to think on my feet and most importantly I was able to see if this was what I really wanted to do. I was also exposed to professionals in the field from whom I learned a lot simply by observing their work. And what you don't hear often is how these professionals will take you under their wing if you actually put in an effort and demonstrate a willingness to be there.
In conclusion, although I was paying to work for free during my internship, the pay off I received in the long run was worth much more.
What are your thoughts on the matter?