Back in the day, when school ended for summer, it meant it was time to get a job. Maybe you’d work nights at an ice cream store, bag groceries at the local market, or watch over kids at day camp. Don’t get me wrong, I do have a few friends who are filling out applications for these more traditional summer jobs, but most of them are filling out applications for low-paying, high profile, summer internships. Today, high school and college students are willing to sacrifice the short-term benefits of having extra cash for the long-term benefits of a full resume.
When I began my summer internship search I thought it might be possible to secure an internship that paid, and was meaningful. On Idealist.org, an interactive website that helps match individuals with volunteer and job opportunities, you do have the option of specifying that you are searching for a paid internship. But let’s just say the results list is real short. Internships that pay are more difficult to find than a younger sibling at a raging Fourth of July fair. And even if you can get your hands on an internship that pays, like I did, a few calculations will show you that your stipend of $500 a month amounts to about $3.50 per hour. The last time my hourly wage was $3.50 an hour, it was the summer after 5th grade when I was a “mother’s helper”.
Yet I consider myself lucky. More and more of my friends are opting for 9-5 internships that don’t offer any reimbursements whatsoever. They’re doing this for two main reasons. First, they are genuinely concerned with working on a project they value. Second, teachers, employers, and parents are stressing the importance of gaining experience and bulking up resumes. As a result, internships have become the new summer jobs.