The moment we think of internship, what comes in front of us is a long wish list of premium companies, dreams of working there, a first-time exposure to the world of corporate & job scenario and a gleaming certificate shouting out your experience! An outer attractive shell that pulls millions of career aspirants who are yet to complete their graduation, but eager to see the real world.
So, what actually internship means?
Technically, by definition, “internship is the brief work experience provided by companies to potential students/employees resulting in practical learnings of the intern.”
Well…sounds good! But is it all that encompasses the companies and the intern? Let’s find out!!
HOW Internships transform you!!!
There is no doubt that Internships play a major role in giving the intern, first-hand exposure to practical aspects of working in the industry, set of knowledge and enhanced skills required on field. Apart from this a certification for the same validating the brief work experience as well as prospective job offers! The certification details when reflected on a CV, add the overall value to the candidature of the job aspirant. At times, companies also offer a minimal stipend for the basic expenses of the intern on a monthly basis or at the end of the internship.
Given all this, there is simply no reason for any career aspirant to not think of an internship. An offer from a company on the wish list is all that is required to trigger hopes and aspirations of someone to accept any terms and conditions of the internship. One of the prime, being, unpaid internship offers. This has become a point of rising concern, as with the surging numbers of interns as compared to limited companies offering internships have led to exploitation and devaluation of on-the-job training.
VibzContentCart welcomes Divya Suresh, a budding content writer to the first session of ‘Dialogue with Vibha Gupta’. Divya Suresh is the author of ‘Unpaid Internships are at a Tipping Point’, awarded as the best article by HRidaya, esteemed HR club of IIM Sambalpur in December 2019.
Welcome Divya! First of all, congratulations on your achievement. Can you introduce yourself and also highlight whether your article is a translation of your opinion and experience?
Thank you for having me here. I am Divya Suresh, an aspiring content writer. My native is Chennai, India and I’m from a commerce background.
The article is truly in my opinion and a follow up of my experience. The striking chord to me behind choosing this topic was to write about my internship experience before going for a full-fledged job, that’s what even a recruiter would expect, but the way of gaining or having the experience to me or for anyone really matters. I would do an internship and expect a return, learning something new if it’s a training or definitely compensation when it’s work. But not always does such a matching opportunity is found.
That’s great. So, these days ‘internships have become quite a trend and an attractive resource to gain industrial exposure. What is the starting point of internships and what is the scene now?
The conceptualization of internship roots back to the 11th century. The process of learning trade from the experts slowly started transforming into set practices.
Gradually, the practice evolved in different fields, and started to be coined as “internship”. In the 1920s, more specifically in medicine, students who pursued training in an organization while in college began to be called “interns” meaning - learning by being in touch with the work/place.
Since the early times till the status quo, the objective behind the internship is “learning work” for mentees and “training for work” for mentors. As the competition rose, internships sprawled across organizations to create an ice-breaker (an occupational experience) before taking a job with an opportunity to learn while studying or after.
The striking question, when it comes to the remuneration aspect is what is the take on payment, for organization and the interns?
Since the earlier times, unpaid aspect in internship exists but today in different fields it is in the tipping point especially in India where the job-seeking population is quite high and the number of talent and skill matching jobs is unmatched.
Interesting to know the age-old history! Moving forward, Divya you talked about the rising numbers of unpaid internships in India. What could be the probable reason behind it? Are we not able to bridge the demand and supply gap of companies offering internships and internship seekers?
The level of competition has led to the disparity of demand and supply of internships. There is a sort of mismatch when it comes to the rise in potential talents and the number of opportunities in India. Unpaid Internships is on the rise to bridge this gap, organizations have come up with unpaid internship aspect where some reveal as unpaid initially in the offer and some don’t. To cope with the disparity of supply, candidates incline to work for free to gain experience.
The expectations for a job and upskilling to meet the expectations go in tandem with the level of increase in competition as well as the resultant surge in the level of expectation by the recruiter. A mode to upskill is internship apart from the academic background, to get the desired job.
In the race, where candidates want an internship of their interest and organizations want to tap the suitable and best talent for offering internship, to accommodate the gap and fill, several portals have been come into existence as a platform to facilitate an information exchange medium between candidates and companies.
Most of the companies expressed their concern over not being able to reach out to an organic pool of talent and that is exactly why they choose to not pay to the interns so as to test their real commitment to learning things even if it is at the cost of zero stipend or uncertainty of future call. How far can we justify this?
What any company would look for is a commitment on a serious note. Even in case of an internship, as it is a cost of time and effort to train and stall an intern to learn. Internships have also become competitive when the search is for the best talent from the lot.
A juncture of poor performance, uninformed absconding /informed withdrawal in an internship period involves significant cost incurred by the HR team of companies, which later becomes monetary spending of no value to them via the internship.
As candidates set objectives to take an internship, a company definitely do have their set of goals in initiating an internship forum. For a company, internship is an investment of time on a candidate for which return is expected. To invest money too, as a stipend, it involves the objectives to meet the ROI- Return on Investment.
From the perspective of candidates, they require experience, validating certificate, letter of recommendation, and learning where many of them look for remuneration. It is a cost of time and effort for students/graduates/job-seekers for which they deserve a gratification (pay).
From the company’s purview, the profitability is the objective, from the internship more than the training about the corporate culture, value addition of interns to the organization is what is most sought. Depending on their objectives and financial strength, companies agree to pay/not pay interns.
It is upon the candidates to chose internships that best suit their objectives – be it learning or earning, and be vigilant of not being exploited.
If we go with the circumstances that you have highlighted just now, what can companies do to ensure that even if it is an unpaid internship, the intern will have a training worth his/her efforts? Don’t you think that if terms are not set in the beginning, exploitation can happen for the sake of industrial exposure?
My opinion in a nutshell is that there are professions that require the essential training to become well-equipped and specialize in the field of work. The objective of the intern would be to gain the practicality of the work ambiance. But unpaid internships are spreading like wildfire. Training is different from an internship, amongst which the latter may be a blend of training and work.
The looming question is why is an internship offered and why has it become popular? The objective and the nature of the internship differ with the work ethics from company to company. In the buyer’s journey, there is lawful advice called “caveat emptor” – let the buyer beware. Similarly, the analogy lies in a candidate's journey. Before one jumps forward to apply and commit to a place as an intern, it is necessary and rightful to enquire with the recruiter in the subject manner of the job. Yes, a candidate has to be aware of the organization, work volume, hours of work, tenure, and compensation and has the right to be informed before the decision to be on the hot seat. So, let the intern be aware!
I agree Divya. So far, we discussed unpaid internships from various angles. We have still a lot to do when it comes to enabling more companies to come forward and offer internships as a practical learning platform. In such a scenario what are the important tips you would like to give to a career aspirant enrolling for an unpaid internship?
For a job aspirant inclined to set a career, paid/unpaid aspect of the internship is not what a recruiter needs to know. It’s about the experience. For a financially upright candidate, an unpaid internship would not matter. For the others, it does if they are compelled to do an internship as part of their curriculum or profession when they are already in a debt to pursue their studies.
But it’s upon the career aspirant to carefully select the internship of their interest in such a manner that there is a scope of upskilling. When work is involved, the candidate has the right to ask for payment. The wake-up alarm should be when he/she is subjected to extraction and exploitation, to which candidate should be vigilant – for a minimal or no payment.
One should aim to do an internship to learn and not just for the sake of Certificate, Letter of Recommendation to make the resume better. The aim should be to make oneself better where also lies the responsibility to search for the prospective Internship that can offer the desired experience.
Thank you, Divya.
That was a very insightful and thought-provoking Dialogue on Unpaid Internships
in India. We hope that companies are more sensitive towards the inclination and
commitment of an intern to learn from them. At the same time let candidates be
more vigilant about the possibility of work exploitation during internship tenure
as well as responsible when they are getting a one-time opportunity to upskill
themselves through an internship.