As a parent who had the ability to help support sons in unpaid summer internships, I know the value of of such experiences, although I don’t like the concept. Unpaid internships favor those who can afford to work for free, while eliminating talented individuals who need to earn money for college expenses and life.
I feel most organizations, even nonprofits, should pay something in return for the work performed by summer interns. However, I’m fighting a losing battle, and I realize unpaid internships can provide experience and networking contacts that will lead to future employment. I’ve seen it happen with two sons whose unpaid internships led to full-time jobs in professions they love.
Before agreeing to underwrite unpaid internships, I asked myself similar questions that appear in an entertaining father/son column by Steve and Isaac Yoder in the Wall Street Journal. Isaac wants a Washington, D.C. summer internship just like my older son did, and his father is pondering nine important questions that you should be prepared to answer before seeking unpaid internship support from mom and dad.
Unpaid internship support from parents must address Steve Yoder’s “thought loop” consisting of the following questions:
- Can we pay for it?
- Can we afford it?
- Did I get subsidies like this?
- Is this a worthwhile endeavor?
- Would it be equitable?
- Can Isaac afford to pay for this summer plan?
- Might Isaac actually benefit if I declined to pay?
- Where, exactly, should parental dole stop?
- Will I feel stingy if I say no?
Last year, this blog wrote about the disturbing trend of purchased internships. That idea requires an even stronger business case or very rich parents.