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The Predator – Watch out for Exploitative Internships

Posted by Carolyn Thompson on Jun 21, 2012 in Career Path, Lessons Learned

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For those who are still in college or just now graduating, the saying, “It’s a jungle out there,” is truer now more than ever. One of the many options that students or recent graduates flock to in lieu of full- or even part-time employment is the unpaid internship. Don’t get me wrong—internships, especially in certain hard-to-break-into industries like journalism, are often the only way to get your foot in the door. But in hard economic times, it’s not uncommon for companies and businesses to offer internships that are either exploitative, technically illegal, or some combination of both. Here’s what you should watch out for to avoid becoming the prey of shady internship programs:

1.      Ask former interns about their experiences; don’t join an internship program blind.

Thanks to the Internet, there’s plenty of information out there about both good and bad internships. Sometimes a simple Google search will suffice. You can also look into websites that rank and review internships, like Vault.com. Whatever you do, try to get in personal touch with a former intern—either through email, on the phone, or in-person—so that you understand from the horse’s mouth, so to speak, what the internship is really like.

2.      You should not be asked to do the same work in amount and kind as a full-time worker.

What makes an internship illegal is getting paid nothing to conduct “essential work.” Essential work is basically a full set of tasks that a full-time employee who gets paid does on a daily basis. Internships are essentially a networking opportunity combined with a few diverse tasks to give you a better idea of what the company or organization does as a whole. If you’re being asked to do essential work, then you’re working for a company that’s breaking the law. For more information about the legality of unpaid internships, check out this article.

3.      Always first seek out paid internships. They do exist.

Of course, the vast majority of internships are unpaid. But you’d be surprised by how many internships are out there that do pay, even if it’s not very much. Paid internships tend to be more serious in the nature of the work you’ll be doing, and they’re more affordable.

4.      There are definite alternatives to unpaid internships. You just have to know where to look.

Although many of my friends and relatives have had internships, and I’ve counseled younger people who’ve participated in good internships, I’ve never done unpaid work in my life beyond extracurricular volunteer work. When I graduated from college and couldn’t find work, I instead took on freelance projects as a writer and consultant. These (paid) projects can be just as rewarding as internships. You’ll establish connections that can lead to full-time work, you’ll learn the basics of various industries, and you’ll be getting paid to boot. So while internships can be wonderful experiences, you don’t absolutely need them to get your foot in the door.

In virtually every industry, there are predators out there. Don’t be their victim. Do your research and choose internships wisely. Good luck!

This guest post was contributed by Barbara Jolie. Barbara is a full time freelance writer and blogger in the Houston area. She enjoys writing about education and the advantages of online classes for all students. If you have any questions email Barbara at barbara.jolie876 @gmail.com.

If you have a great idea for a jungle-themed post, let us know! Guest writers or requests are always welcome!

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The Burrow – Make Ends Meet While Looking For A Job

Posted by Carolyn Thompson on May 24, 2011 in Career Path

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NestingMost animals instinctively know to keep their homes stocked with food for a rainy day or unusually cold winter. While looking for a job, it can be hard to find alternative ways to make money. Your nest may be left empty because you can’t find a way to keep it warm and full of the nutrients you need. However, while you are looking for full-time employment, there is a way to work from the convenience of your own home, on your own time. Drum roll please, here comes a solution. Start freelancing for some extra cash! There are plenty of journals, newspapers, and blogs hiring freelancers on a regular basis. Here are three steps to help you find a writing position that is right for you.

Area of Interests or Expertise

If there are many freelance opportunities available, try to narrow down your interests. What subjects would you be interested in writing about? Do you have educational qualifications or experience to write about it those topics? In the age of Google search, you can probably write about any topic. However, it is important to be able to sell your resume and experience to a journal editor. Why would you be able to write about a particular subject?

Sometimes it’s best to take what you get. Even if you only find a blog, completely unrelated to your interests, offer to write for it. Some money is better than nothing, right? Plus, once you get your foot in the freelance writing door, it will be easy to find other writing opportunities in the future.

Find relevant writing samples

Once you decide who/what you would like to write for, you need to find relevant writing samples. Perhaps you already have relevant material to send. If you are starting fresh, make sure to look over articles or pieces in the publication. Pay attention to tone, style, opinion, and subject area. Try to make your samples fit the same framework.

Email HR Representative or Editor of Publication

You can usually find the contact information of a journal editor or blog webmaster on the company website. Send the relevant person an email. It is a good idea to include a cover letter, resume, and writing sample in your first email. Tell them: (1) how you found out about their publication, (2) characteristics making you a good freelancer, and (3) let them know your sample is attached. Try to keep the email as short and sweet as possible. You want to sell yourself as a writer, but ultimately, brevity and precision are essential to good writing!

Good luck, start stocking your burrow!

This guest post was written by Mariana Ashley. She is a freelance writer who particularly enjoys writing about online colleges. She loves receiving reader feedback, which can be directed to mariana.ashley031 @gmail.com.

If you have a great idea for a jungle-themed post, let us know! Guest writers or requests are always welcome!

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