Jobs in the journalism field are like pieces of sea glass.  They’re exquisite, rare treasures that you find in a vast expanse of pebbles and other people’s trash.  But once you’ve found one, if you handle it gently it will stay intact.  Internships, on the other hand, are more like hermit crabs.  Also rare finds, very exciting when you find one, but if you want to keep it for the ride home it’ll just go limp and smell awful.

I’ve heard that in the olden days, we might have parleyed our internship position at the obit desk into a full time job at the newspaper.  My grandmother tells me that in her days working at National Geographic, there was potential for her secretary position to turn into a writing one.  To me, this all sounds impossible.

I’m used to the Great Recession workplace norms, where an internship functions like indentured servitude without the bonus plot of land at the end of the period.  In fact, I really wonder if they’re worth the trouble anymore: you work for a publication for free for up to six months churning out great copy, and then you’re tossed into the paper shredder because there’s just no money to keep you on full time.  I’ve experienced it firsthand.  Sure, there are the rumors out there about these things called “paid internships,” but I’ll believe that when I see it.  What’s more likely is that you’ll end up having to PAY TO HAVE AN INTERNSHIP.  What the hell?  What the HELL?

Oh, and one more thing:  There was a time when I felt I could afford to work for free, in an effort to build up my resume and clips.  In that time I must have applied to at least a hundred internships.  I received maybe one or two employer responses that died out within a week.  I still struggle to figure out why a publication would pass up on skilled, free labor.  It blows my mind.

Every once in a while I fill out a job application online, where I am asked to fill in the salaries of my recent writing jobs.  When I fill in the boxes for the internship I completed I have to write “N/A” or “UNPAID” or just leave it blank, and it hurts my heart every time.  The idea of being a salaried writer is still so foreign to me that when I finally get that job, I don’t think I’ll even recognize the presidents staring at me from my wallet.  But I’ll tell you this much: I’m looking forward to getting to know them.

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