Will You Sign the Intern Bill of Rights?


I owe my entire career to internships. When I first graduated college, I read a Stephen Colbert interview in The Onion in which the host talked about his post-college days, working at The Second City’s box office. It inspired me to pursue internships with both (which I got), and I think out of obligation to my degree I also sought out a third with Touch & Go Records.

These days I am mixed on internships because I find there are people deeper into their careers who want to do something new but short of internships and going back to school, there is no third, in-between option. For folks freshly out of school and able to swing it, I still feel like internships are a great way of getting relevant, real experience in a way that universities can’t really provide alone.

True, you can also nab internships through schools (as I did, with Rolling Stone), but it’s rare the schooling itself will get you those skills or connections.

All of this is a long way of saying that I feel like internships are becomingly increasingly exploitative (there have been a number of class action suits brought against companies like Fox and Heart in which interns claim they were used for free labor having no bearing on their degrees) and am glad someone’s doing something about it.

That someone is career site InternMatch, which has posted an “Intern Bill of Rights." It reads, in part: “We proclaim this intern bill of rights as a common standard by which all internships should abide, with the goal to improve internships for interns, employers, and society as a whole.”

In other words, although a job ad is one way of finding out what the gist is of one’s potential roles, it often comes out that you don’t have a better understanding of the day-to-day until it’s too late — or would be incredibly suicidal — to jump away. You get locked in after an interview or two, and only after you’ve been offered it do you know what’s going on.

By merely adding in a job posting that your company adheres to this standard is an interesting experiment. But some of these rules, like No. 3 (“The word intern should only be applied to opportunities that involve substantial training, mentoring, and getting to know a line of work.”) can guarantee a transparency and better knowledge of whether something is worth pursuing that hasn’t existed before.

Give it a read, check it out and add your signature if you’re thus inclined. It's pretty cool. 

David Wolinsky is a freelance writer and a lifelong Chicagoan. In addition to currently serving as IFC’s comedy, film, and TV blogger, he's also a comedy-writing instructor for Second City and an adjunct professor in DePaul’s College of Computing and Digital Media. He was the Chicago city editor for The Onion A.V. Club where he provided in-depth daily coverage of this city's bustling arts/entertainment scene for half a decade. His first career aspirations were to be a game-show host.

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