I have stared at a computer screen for hours, typing résumés and cover letters until my fingers hurt. I have scrolled through every single job website I could think of, some of them even two or three times. I have pressed “send” so many times, triggering the awkward waiting game as I hoped someone would look at my application. Since I started college, I have applied to over 50 internships.
Most of us have experienced the stress of applying to internships. Those of us that haven’t will likely feel it soon. Still, the most disconcerting part of this process might not be the searching, the applying or even the anxious waiting. It might be the part where, regardless of how talented or experienced a student is, he or she is still rejected. But according to a recent article in The New York Times, that might not even be the student’s fault.
Darren Walker from The New York Times wrote an article this summer that explored the idea that internships are a “privilege,” and that getting hired is more about who you know than what you can do. While this is definitely a dark factor at work in the job market, it isn’t all encompassing, either.
The Glassdoor reports that a person is 2.6 to 6.6 percent more likely to get a job if they have been referred by another employee, a “statistically significant” difference. Since internships essentially mirror full job positions, these statistics are likely similar for those applying for internships. Those with the ability to network or whose parents can do so for them have intern positions delegated to them in a process that most of us don’t even get to see.
Sure, there might not be anything wrong with using connections to get ahead. But what about those of us with no connections, or those who never had the privilege of making any? Do we not deserve the same intern experiences, especially before venturing into a dismal job market?
In addition, the divide grows deeper in terms of unpaid internships. Those with money or of higher social standing can afford to take unpaid internships, as the lack of compensation will not hurt them. However, low-income students do not have this luxury. When every dollar matters for your tuition or food or bills, you simply can’t afford to spend hours doing so much work but never receive a penny for it.
But if all the paid internship positions are going to those with connections, there really aren’t a lot of options left for the underprivileged, low-income students, even if they need these opportunities the most.
This is a cultural norm that needs to shift. More employers should be offering paid internship positions. If a student amassed over 20, sometimes 30 hours of work a week, that’s on par with a part-time job. It’s unfair to extort students, simply because they’re desperate for the experience and willing to do the work. Unpaid positions are also unfair because they effectively filter out the students who simply cannot work for nothing and who would ask for compensation.
However, while it may be 6 percent easier to get a job if you’re friends with the boss, that doesn’t mean that it’s impossible to get internships through skill or talent. It simply means that the opportunities won’t appear in front of you. They’ll require a bit of legwork.
As it is with many opportunities, the Internet is a great place to start. Every day, hundreds of internships are posted on websites like internships.com or looksharp.com, hoping to hire students. It may take a lot of time and a lot of searching, but the job listings are there.
Don’t ignore our campus resources. It can be difficult to sort through the torrent of daily emails we receive, but floating beneath the surface are always emails about prospective intern opportunities. Some offices at Rider even look to hire interns right off of campus.
In addition, networking doesn’t have to start with our families. Take initiative. Talk with professors, especially the internship directors of your respective major. If anyone can help, it’s the people with the experience and the connections that we aim to build.
I have applied to so many different internships. I have no connections. I only have my résumé and my portfolio. After numerous online applications, I finally saw results. I am currently interning at an online media company, where I have worked since February. Over the summer, I had a paid internship with a sustainable service provider based out of California. I have interviewed and politely turned down other positions as well.
While the odds may be stacked against us, especially if we have no connections, that doesn’t mean there is no hope. The real key to getting an internship is something that transcends both networking and pure skill. Be persistent, and never stop looking until you find the results you aimed for.
The weekly editorial expresses the majority opinion of The Rider News. This week’s editorial was written by the Opinion Editor, Samantha Sawh.
Printed in the 09/28/16 issue.