There's a lot of talk right now about the state of the internship. With unpaid internship lawsuits and controversies popping up around every corner, understanding whether or not to take an unpaid internship is harder than ever.
Here's a little secret for you, though: You lose much more than just pay when you take an unpaid internship. You lose the chance to build your career, move up the ladder, and gain respect from your colleagues.
Not convinced? Here are the 12 most shocking things you lose as an unpaid intern besides pay:
Paid internships are attractive to diverse candidates, especially those in debt. In fact, 81 percent of black students and 67 percent of Latino students who earned bachelor's degrees left school with debt. Taking an unpaid internship may mean losing the chance to work with diverse candidates, who could be more attracted to paid opportunities.
2. Legal rights
Unpaid interns are not seen as employees in the eyes of the law. Since the Fair Labor Standards Act internship guidelines are vague, should you have a problem, your employer may be able to get off scot-free based on technicalities. It's important to note that Democratic state lawmakers have proposed legislation that would give unpaid interns the same statutory protections from workplace discrimination as employees. However, for the time being, your legal rights are slim to none.
3. Protection against discrimination
If you don't have legal rights as an unpaid intern, you don't have protection against workplace discrimination, either. You are likely not protected under basic rights such as sexual harassment, age discrimination, arbitrary dismissal, and other workplace issues.
4. High rates of hire
Think your unpaid internship will lead to future job offers? Think again. Paid interns have a higher chance at getting hired. In fact, 61 percent of paid interns receive at least one job offer, with the median salary at a first job of paid interns starting at $51,930.
5. Quality of experience
When you take on unpaid opportunities, they are usually of lower quality. This may have to do with supervisors failing to respect you or not working on opportunities that align with the job description.
6. Financial independence
The chance to get out of debt is a pretty attractive offer. As I briefly highlighted, many students and recent grads are on track to gaining some heavy student loans. While paid internships aren't the only solution to solving loan debt, they do help you to pave the way to financial independence...both from your parents and from your loans.
7. Marketplace value
The moment you enter the professional world, every employer will ask you this question: "How much money did you earn in your last job?" If you never earned at least minimum federal wage, you could lose your ability to negotiate for better compensation.
8. Appreciation from an organization
Pay, in the broader scheme of things, equates to appreciation. If you're not getting paid, you're not getting the respect you deserve as an intern and as a member of the organization.
Although you may believe taking on an unpaid internships won't influence your performance, reports indicate that paid interns are happier and more engaged. Even though a paid internship may mean an increase in job duties, you're more connected to your job, which will probably produce better results.
Let's face it: If you work with a company that pays you a wage, they'll probably offer additional perks. For instance, in addition to paying their interns, Google offers free meals, massages, rock climbing, and more. Who wouldn't want that?
11. Pay raises
If you're never paid in the first place, there's little room for growth when it comes to your pay. Unpaid interns will likely never have the chance to earn more since they're not being offered competitive compensation for their hard work.
12. Awesome opportunities
Some of the best companies offer awesome internship programs, as well as additional chances to grow as a professional. Intel, Amazon, and Apple are just some of the companies offering great professional growth opportunities, while paying interns in the process.
While you may believe taking on an unpaid internship is OK, understanding what you lose -- aside from just money -- can help you avoid some serious consequences. Do yourself a favor and seek out paid internship opportunities. You'll gain the respect, the experience, and the money you deserve.
What do you think? What are some other things you lose as an unpaid intern?