This post has been updated for 2020.
The late summer months mark the closing stretch of a four-letter word loathed by students and employers alike: internships.
Maybe my math is a bit fuzzy there (actually I’m sure it is because I’m a numbers guy), but these resume-building, supplemental hiring opportunities are rarely held in high esteem by either side — especially when you attach the word “unpaid” to it.
Many students have wasted entire semesters and summers in internship programs lacking structure, engagement, and legitimate real-world experience. The same is true for businesses that have actually lost productivity to interns who are uninspired, impatient, or just uninterested in the company. (But I’m getting college credit for this, right?)
As a rapidly-growing company in the tech marketing space, we place a great deal of time, energy, and resources into developing young talent. We CAN’T afford a bad experience for either side, which is why we CAN afford paid internships.
The benefits for students go far beyond a regular paycheck (though for 18-22-year-olds, that certainly helps). In 2019, 66 percent of students who had completed paid internships secured job offers after graduation, compared to only 43.7 percent of those who had worked unpaid internships. Many paid interns also expect to make more money than unpaid interns once they get their next job.
But what’s in it for the employers who are investing time and money into those students? In our experience, a lot. Below are a few reasons why we always pay our interns:
1. We want to attract the best candidates
Research shows there are still approximately five hundred thousand to one million unpaid internships in the U.S. annually, and 43 percent of internships are still unpaid. But with sites such as Salary.com and Glassdoor, smart intern candidates are discovering their value. They know they deserve to be paid, and these sites help them find the companies that do.
2. We want them to take the internship seriously
With some internships paying $4,000-8,000 a month, interns are more motivated to treat a paid opportunity like the real job that it is. A paid internship also gives employers more flexibility in assigning projects, and provides interns with ownership over their work and motivation to take risks.
3. We want them to show up on time
Often, unpaid interns are full-time college students who have hours of classes, homework, and a part-time job as well as their internship. That’s not a sustainable practice, and it leads to crazy schedules and little sleep. If we’re making our interns responsible for producing quality work and meeting deadlines, then we want their undivided attention.
4. We want them to learn to pay their dues, not be hazed
It’s not going to be every day and it’s definitely not their main responsibility, but being paid to make an occasional coffee run is is a lot better than not getting anything for doing it every day. Every job will come with a few tedious tasks that people don’t like to do. Those tasks go by faster when you’re getting paid.
5. We want them to be part of our team
We’re big on engaging our team, building relationships, and having some fun when the work is done. We want our interns to be part of that dynamic as well. Unpaid interns often operate on a shoestring budget or a crazy schedule, meaning they miss out on chances to bond with teammates after hours or celebrate the victories they’re helping us achieve.
6. We want to hire our best interns into full-time positions
Approximately 25 percent of our current team started as interns, so we mean it when we say we’re committed to developing young talent. We view internships as three-month long job interviews — if you show us you can be an asset to our team, then we’ll make you a full-time part of it. Doing this also saves time and resources in the hiring process. Interns who become full-time team members are already on board and up to speed with our processes, goals, and mission.
7. We like not being sued
Oh yeah, how about not being the next target in stories like this one? Taking advantage of unpaid interns is coming back to bite employers after the U.S. Department of Labor laid out the framework for unpaid internships. Employers need to have a structured internship program to avoid conflicts down the road.
After all, an internship isn’t supposed to be a one-way street. The experience is best when both the employer and the student get as much — if not more — out of the program than they put into it.
We’re currently taking applications for multiple positions, including internships. If you’d like to work in a fast-paced, fun environment for a great hourly wage and a variety of other perks (catered lunches, monthly team outings, and ping pong to name a few), you can apply here or visit our careers page for more information.
Does your company employ interns? Share your tips on keeping them engaged!