I once read a Wall Street Journal reported on a new trend: students and graduates are now paying to have the opportunity to be interns. The journal noted that, due to the "dismal market for college summer internships," parents are paying companies to place their students in unpaid internships, hiring consultants to 'market' their kids to prospective employers and even flat-out buying opportunities for them.
So, how much does a summer internship cost? The article quotes a price tag of approximately $5,000 to $9,500 for an internship. I find this totally preposterous on many levels. However, I also agree with a portion of it. Allow me to explain.
My first reaction to this was that it is completely unfair. Paying for an internship is all well and good for Johnny Rich-Kid who has loaded parents that can afford to drop several thousand dollars for him. But what about the other 99% of students who aren't so fortunate. Should the best opportunity really go to the richest student or the most qualified? I find it difficult to see the difference between this practice and bribery. We live in America, the land of opportunity. What ever happened to survival of the fittest? If I were graduating from college right now and knew that my peers were paying to be placed in positions instead of me, I would be really, really mad!
OK, so that was my initial reaction. Yes, paying for internships is totally crazy in my opinion. But what about the students who are paying consultants to 'market' them to colleges? These programs are designed to help students present themselves in the best light possible. I was OK with this idea....until I saw how much it costs. The firm quoted in the article charges $800! I cannot possibly accept that these firms are providing $800 worth of value to their clients - especially when they are providing the same service to thousands of other students. These firms are capitalizing on the fact that students desperately need internships and are, in my opinion, milking them for every cent they can.
If you've read my blog before, the following will come as no surprise to you. The real lesson here is that times are tough. Yes, we knew that already. But the key to success in a dismal market is not paying to get your foot in the door. The key is information. There are great opportunities out there - real opportunities with real firms. Despite the downturn, many firms are still hiring (and even paying) interns. The Big 4 public accounting firms are all hiring for this summer, though on a smaller scale than in recent years. Now, more than ever, students must take full control of their job search and learn what they are getting into. With demand for internships far outweighing the supply, the Big 4 firms will be filtering out even more resumes and applications than they normally do. If you don't know what they are looking for, and how to present yourself, yourresume will be routed directly to the shredder.
My passion is helping students get hired. This isn't my full-time career but, rather, it is something I love to do. I was in your shoes once and I know how difficult it can be. I wrote the Big 4 Guru's Book of Secrets to help students and graduates learn how to navigate the trecherous hiring process of top tier firms. I'm not trying to take advantage of the fact that you really, really need a job. In good times and bad, I strongly believe that having the right information and knowing the scorecard is the single best way to get hired. By learning what employers really want in their employees, you can make yourself the perfect job candidate. In my mind, paying hundreds or thousands of dollars is completely crazy. All you need is the power of knowledge.