What does an intern provide to a company and should they be paid for their work?
If you've ever searched for an internship, you know how rare it is to find one that's paid. Usually, the associated advertisements focus on how potential interns will benefit by working as part of the team at a top company, learning skills they'll use for the rest of their lives and networking with notable people.
However, some question the legitimacy of the gains from unpaid internships. Are students getting enough out of their internships if their bosses just choose to use them as secretaries and coffee runners? And how do unpaid internships contribute to income inequality? Let's examine a few aspects to keep in mind when considering whether or not interns should be paid.
Unpaid internships tolerated in ultra-competitive industries
A person who is trying to get his or her foot in the door and break into the entertainment industry or another extremely competitive field may reason that unpaid internships are not only common but also expected. That individual might think, "If I can just learn how things work at X Company, I'll have something great to put on my resume, and I might even get a job out of the experience. Considering those advantages, I'll figure out a way to get by without pay."
There's also the problematic reality that if a potential intern is unwilling to work for no pay, he or she can feel certain that dozens or even hundreds of other hopefuls would surely work hard without getting paid. Then, there's the assumption that if a person doesn't seize the chance to grab an unpaid internship, he or she might be completely out of luck since internships are so scarce and people are always willing to work for free.
Legal specifications to keep in mind
The stereotypical intern is someone dashing around from dawn until dusk, eagerly making copies and filling empty coffee cups for superiors. Although that dedicated individual might be making a strong impression regarding personal work ethic, those types of activities don't transfer to become future job skills. Some companies have taken bold stances and chosen to pay their interns, recognizing that they are assets to the team.
However, there have been instances where interns fulfilled duties that ended up being integral to a project's success, and they didn't receive a dime for their efforts. Many people do not realize that unpaid internships can result in lawsuits related to the Fair Labor Standards Act. There were two prolific cases associated with interns at Gawker and Fox Searchlight Pictures. Both argued because their duties were so integral to operations, they deserved payment.
According to legal rulings, unpaid internships have to occur in a primarily educational environment that benefits the intern. Also, the employer cannot take advantage of an intern and make that person do things that would necessitate a paid staff member receiving income for the work.
Unpaid internships highlight income inequality
People have also argued strongly that unpaid internships are luxuries for the economically fortunate. That line of thought makes sense, especially considering that many internships occur during the summer. That's a time when people who are not financially stable can't even consider applying for internships because they have to use that coursework-free season to make money that'll sustain them through upcoming semesters.
It raises the question of whether employers might be unintentionally preventing ideal candidates from applying for an internship because an unpaid option isn't financially realistic. Employers who offer paid internships bring a welcome element of equal opportunity to the internship candidate pool.
What must happen to help interns who take unpaid internships?
Indeed, paying interns or making them work for free is a decision that's up to employers. If they choose the latter, they must break the stereotype and reward worthy interns by letting them do things that'll genuinely benefit them in their future careers.
Of course, it would be feasible to assign interesting activities based on a person's prior performance. If someone characteristically shows up late and displays an obviously bored attitude while interning at a company, he or she would arguably not be a prime candidate for exciting and demanding responsibilities. On the other hand, when an intern manages time well, is inquisitive and otherwise meets or exceeds expectations, then the stage is set for bigger and greater things.
Also, employers need to consider that payment could be an incentive that helps them find the best, most highly motivated interns. If that happens, they might reduce hiring costs down the line because they can bring proven interns on board instead of having to dive blindly into the job market.
Hopefully, the influx of legal cases taken against companies that didn't pay interns for doing valuable work might inspire a change. Until then, it's up to interns to be assertive if they're continually only given menial duties during an internship. As long as they're performing well at a level that is at least as good as their peers, they can build a strong case that if payment is out of the question, they need to get educational ways to spend their time.
It's important to make your workplace a healthy, mentally stimulating environment for yourself.
Some people are lucky enough to work in jobs that keep them fit year-round, like Pilates instructors and Olympic athletes. The rest of us deal with prolonged sitting, donut days and weekly birthday celebrations, and then work on recovering in the after hours. But don't let those 8-hour days sabotage your efforts. Follow these tips to help keep you on the healthy track while at work.
Plan meals and snacks in advance
Men and women who plan their meals are much less likely to be obese than those who don't, according to a 2017 International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activitystudy. The same study also found that people who planned their meals enjoyed better variety and improved diet quality. Depending on your goals and eating habits, improving the quality of your meals may help you lose weight.
Another benefit to meal planning is that it leaves uncertainty off the table. When you know when and what you're going to eat, you're less likely to much on junk food.
Meal planning includes breakfast too. When you've eaten a healthy, fiber-filled breakfast, you'll be satiated for longer and will be less likely to hit the vending machine before lunch.
Eat more Lipotropic foods
While you're planning those work-day meals, consider adding more lipotropic foods to the mix. Lipotropic foods contain organic compounds that break down fat stores, prevent excess fat storage and help cleanse the liver of toxic build-up.
Major lipotropic nutrients include methionine, choline, inositol, betaine and vitamin B12.
Consider packing lunches with the following lipotropic-rich foods:
Beans & nuts
- Brazil nuts
- Flax seeds
- Soy beans
- Lean meats
- Brown Rice
Although it can be difficult to track how much water you're drinking at work, you must stay hydrated throughout the day. Dehydration can cause you to be drowsy and sluggish, which aren't desirable conditions at work.
Water has many health benefits, including its ability to help flush out toxins, maintain regularity and improve your complexion.
Try getting between six and eight glasses of water every day and up your intake of fresh, juicy fruits. These offer another great way to help keep you hydrated.
Make a habit of washing your hands
Throughout the work day, we encounter many people and surfaces that carry germs. Germs cause infection and this is how we get sick. To keep yourself healthy, wash your hands periodically throughout the day with soap for a minimum of 10 seconds at a time. Research done by Rutgers University shows that this is the most effective way to remove germs.
How often you wash your hands is up to you, but you should be washing after every time you use the bathroom and before you eat. If you have a cold, wash your hands more often to avoid spreading germs around the office.
Caffeine will give you a boost of energy to help start your day, but it can also lead to a mid-afternoon crash when the effect wears off. If you're drinking too much coffee, it can aggravate the nervous system and cause the adrenal gland to release cortisol. This is similar to being in a constant state of stress, and that's not good for your health. Work can be stressful enough. Limit the caffeine to one to two cups of coffee or tea per day to avoid negative consequences.
Continue your healthy habits while at work, and it'll be easier to maintain them at home. A healthy lifestyle includes a balanced diet, regular exercise and good habits. Try to keep these things going regardless of where you are and you'll be on the right track.