I've written again about unpaid internships. The point I was most eager to make was about the transformation of the "arts" job. It used to be that starving artists were artists, whereas now, any office work that's remotely "arts" is unpaid. No one is forced to buy your novel or painting. But if you're doing administrative work that has some tangential relationship to art, you're still doing tasks you wouldn't otherwise, for an entity other than yourself, and that's work in the usual sense. Yet we've normalized the idea that any "arts" job is a dream job that need not pay. This is particularly frustrating for artists, whose connections and interests - and thus plausible day jobs - will be in the arts-broadly-defined.
But the point that probably most needed making was that "prepared" is subjective, and changes according to the supply of applicants with unpaid experience. Consider this comment to the piece:
I think it depends on the industry. In my profession, experience is everything. Every intern I have seen at our office would be woefully inadequate as either an entry level Legal Secretary or a Paralegal. I don't think we would ever hire anyone who hadn't interned somewhere and at least had not only the school background but some experience as well.This commenter unfortunately doesn't spell out where the purported inadequacies lie. Is it that these are silly youth who show up late or in flip-flops, and who continue to do so even once advised against? Or is it that they've never worked at a law firm before (I'd think graduates who'd never worked at all would be unusual!) and thus require some on-the-job training? I suspect the latter.
If there weren't applicants with internship experience - if internships weren't a thing - surely this firm would hire people without that experience, would show them how to merge spreadsheets or whatever the issue is, and would, as they say, deal. That's how it went when I worked in an office before grad school, back in 2005-2006, when a college degree sufficed.* I mean, which is more likely - that something has radically changed in the skills required of legal secretaries, or that employers now have the option of hiring entry-level applicants who've already done what used to be entry-level jobs, for free?
*There's one line of thought - which I've addressed before - that says, the problem isn't unpaid internships, but rather the insistence on higher education. This might make sense - and not just be changing the topic to an also-important but separate issue - if unpaid internships weren't virtually always in conjunction with higher education. Sometimes you're even paying tuition to complete the internship. If there were some unpaid-internship track, with actual training, this would be a potentially worthwhile conversation. Instead, it's that you go to college and find that the unpaid internships you did as a student qualify you for unpaid postgraduate internships.