Why Social Media Internships Should Never Be Unpaid

See on Scoop.itM-learning, E-Learning, and Technical Communications

Managing a company’s social media is a massive responsibility and undertaking. Here’s why you should pay your social media interns.

Danielle M. Villegas‘s insight:

I think this raises an important question for all internships similar to this, not just social media internships.

When I was a senior in undergraduate school, I did an internship with one of the local network TV stations in Washington, DC. While I did do some research, and I learned how to write a PSA (public service announcement), most of the time I was doing unpaid clerical work. It was especially tough for me because here I was, paying tuition so I could get the credits to do this internship, I had to interview and compete with dozens and dozens of other applicants to get into that spot, and since I didn’t have a car, I had to take public transportation fifty miles away –and back–three times a week to get from Fredericksburg, VA to Washington DC, which cost me even more money out of my pocket. I had to pay for my own meals too, of which I would lose about six meals a week from my school cafeteria plan.

I wasn’t paid a dime, and there was a point where I literally spent a month doing nothing but stuffing envelopes. It wasn’t until the producer of the show I was working on saw that I had been doing this for so long, and I finally said, “I’m getting sick of just always stuffing envelopes all the time,” that she finally let me go on shoots and stuff. I wanted to work in television, and obviously, I couldn’t break in, even as an intern researcher or anything like that afterwards.  If I had at least been compensated a little bit so that at least my travel was compensated, that would’ve been helpful. I worked as hard there as I did doing the same thing–clerical work–for actual money during my summers.

I understand it’s a trade-off–getting college credit for doing a regular job, and it’s like having an apprenticeship. I totally get that. But especially in this day and age, when interns DO have to take up the slack of full-time workers who have been laid off and such, a little bit of compensation of some sort should be in order. That’s just my opinion based on my own experiences.

What do you think?

–techcommgeekmom

See on mashable.com

About TechCommGeekMom

Danielle M. Villegas is a technical communicator who has recently started her own technical communications consultancy, Dair Communications. She has worked at the International Refugee Committee, MetLife, Novo Nordisk, and BASF North America, with a background in content strategy, web content management, social media, project management, e-learning, and client services. Danielle is best known in the technical communications world for her blog, TechCommGeekMom.com, which has continued to flourish since it was launched during her graduate studies at NJIT in 2012. She has presented webinars and seminars for Adobe, the Society for Technical Communication (STC), the IEEE ProComm, and at Drexel University’s eLearning Conference. She has written articles for the STC Intercom, STC Notebook, the Content Rules blog, and The Content Wrangler as well. You can learn more about Danielle on LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/daniellemvillegas, on Twitter @techcommgeekmom, or through her blog.
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2 Responses to Why Social Media Internships Should Never Be Unpaid

  1. It is difficult for graduates these days. In the UK at least we are seeing interns being taken on on an unpaid basis in positions that would have been paid 10-15 years ago. Sometimes taking such positions IS the only way they can get their foot in the door. This practice varies depending on the profession but in relatively common.

    Why? I don’t have any facts, but with social media I believe many managers do not understand it. They see it as a young person’s thing that is a distraction to what they do. At best they think they need to do something, but are incapable of delivering a strategy to do anything effective. The end result are unpaid positions where someone is hired without much direction of what to do. With such a low starting point, is it any wonder people can not see any value in it.

    I should say that I have come across some great examples where a graduate has grasped the nettle and really delivered ROI. The key is having a manager willing to listen and an employee with the communication skills to speak on their level.

    • The problem was the same for me almost 25 years ago. I had taken that internship to help me get my foot in the door. For me, I was willing to trade compensation for college credit–that part I didn’t have a problem with. The travel expenses were just a bit much for me, as I had to take a bus and a train just to go back and forth each time. As you can imagine, it was the fact that I was merely free clerical help instead of help who could learn the ropes. That’s what gets me all these years later. My whole purpose was to learn so that I could get my foot in the door, and nothing happened. And I know I was a good worker. Only thing that came out of it is that I’m really good at folding letter-sized paper at the right spot to stuff an envelope quickly now. I think I was too young and inexperienced to complain sooner at the time. Oh well. Television’s loss is tech comm’s gain, I hope. You are right about social media–I think a lot of companies don’t know what to do with it, so it does put certain interns at an advantage, which is great. I’ve seen the results of certain internship programs where kids out of college only a few years are in executive positions quickly, while I’m still trying to get there. It’s just a messed up system, from my own experience.

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