Throughout college, we're constantly being told to find an internship. According to our professors, our academic counselors, and even our parents, internships will help us succeed in the future. Intern now, find a job later. So, what's an intern to do when a company closes its intern program? On Oct. 23rd, Condé Nast, one of the largest, most well-known magazine publishing companies in the US did just that.
Condé Nast made the decision to shut down its intern program after 2 interns sued the company this past summer. The interns, who worked at W and The New Yorker, claimed they were paid under minimum wage. The company did not directly state that their decision was a reaction to the suit, which has yet to be decided on.
So now what?
Fear not magazine journalism majors--Chandra Turner of Ed2010, a website that posts magazine jobs and internships, believes the end of Condé Nast's intern program could actually be good news. "If you think about all the work that has to be done at a fashion magazine that is now probably being done by interns—if unpaid interns aren't doing the work, somebody has to do the work," Turner recently told Racked. So, will more entry level positions open up? Will it be easier to break into the industry without an internship? Condé Nast's decision has the potential to change the landscape of the magazine industry.
But as students, we can't help but feel that we're getting the short end of the stick here. Internships provide students the opportunity to try out a profession before entering the job field. They have the potential of showing us what we want to do, what we don't want to do, and help us find mentors with the same passions as us.
"I think it was selfish of the interns to go and file the suit agains the company," said Joey, who planned on applying to the Condé Nast Intern Program. "I mean to an extent you know what you're signing up for beforehand and they were interns for such a high profile parent company. And secondly, I think it's equally as selfish of the company to shut down the internship program to send whatever message or protect themselves from whatever they're afraid of happening again because that's putting up tough barriers for a lot of people's futures," he said.
As students, we're working relentlessly so that we can come across opportunities such as an internship at Condé Nast. We've stacked our resumes with student media experience, we spend our free time writing articles to gather a portfolio of clips, and we join professional societies to establish connections in a competitive industry such as publishing. Will our hard work now go unnoticed?
So dear Condé Nast, is ending your intern program really the right solution here?
Rachel*, a past Condé Nast intern, believes the company did not follow their own rules set forth in their intern manual. "I had many of the same exact responsibilities that editorial assistants and freelancers had, and although it's certainly helpful to gain knowledge of a position you hope to acquire post-college, they were being credited and paid for the same work I did, while I received zero compensation," she said. "Conde Nast doesn't allow their interns to produce work that directly benefits the employer, but clearly they broke this rule in several cases. I was expected to work long hours and while that's fine from time to time, they expected me to stay late continuously, which cut into time reserved for my schoolwork, and my grades suffered. I was also asked to go on many personal errands (Starbucks, dry cleaning), which is specifically not allowed in the intern manual."
What we have here is an intern program that turned into something it wasn't established to be. Why end a program that could be beneficial to so many student's futures? When something breaks, it should be fixed, not given up on.
(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article do not all reflect those of the author. This piece was written mainly to invoke discussion.)
*Names have been changed