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Subject:internships (long post) From:Lee Bumgarner <jlbumgar -at- VNET -dot- IBM -dot- COM> Date:Wed, 6 Dec 1995 12:57:03 EST
As corporate America downsizes, the hunt for jobs becomes increasingly
more competitive. Where once there were many jobs, there are fewer; where
once entry-level positions were filled with new grads, they are now filled
by old hands with years of experience.
As a career changer, I have found it difficult to find work as a technical
writer or technical editor--although I have nine years of nontechnical
editing and writing experience. Few recruiters or managers take those nine
Now that I have a little more than a year's worth of technical editing
and writing experience through co-operative education positions, they are
taking me more seriously: I am actually getting return calls and
If it were not for my co-op experiences, I would be in *big* trouble, for I
would not be able to compete as effectively for positions.
I learned the value of volunteering, internships, and co-operative
education positions when I studied for a previous degree and when I worked
in museums as editor and manager. As a volunteer, intern, and co-op,
I gained valuable experience not possible in the classroom, learned how
theories became reality in the *real* world, picked up the jargon of my
profession, explored career opportunities, made contacts, and found
professional positions. As a manager, I was able to provide these same
opportunities for those entering the field.
As a volunteer and intern, on occasion, I was unpaid. In others I was paid.
When I was a manager, I tried to find money for those that worked for me.
If I couldn't and the person filling the position still wanted to work, I
them as I would a professional and treated them as a professional. Employer
and employee both benefited from the arrangement. (In the museum field
[working for the state] we had little money. Volunteers and unpaid interns
enabled us to stretch our budget. One year, their total hours added the
equivalent of two professional staff positions.)
So, I am pro-experiential learning, whether it is paid or unpaid. Both
employer and employee benefit.
Now, I am aware of instances in the software industry where
co-ops are substitutes for professional staff. (I am also aware of
instances of managers letting professionals go and rehiring
them as contractors to save money.)
Yes, I find this appalling, and I don't condone this type of management.
And I do cringe to think that management might think that someone with
so little experience (as a volunteer, intern, or co-op) can take
the place of someone with so many years of experience.
When this thread arose in fall 1994, someone critical of my position (yes, I
have repeated it here) indicated offline that newbies working for free
or at lower salaries than professionals in the field were brought in by
management as union-busting scabs.
I and most other volunteers, co-ops, and interns more than likely never
intended to be scabs or intended to be perceived as scabs or as replacements
for professionals; I and they remain only interested in gaining experience.
Students coming out of school need job experience to compete.
Experiential learning (whether paid or unpaid) is like an apprenticeship: it
benefits both parties.
These are my views only and are not those of my employer.