End of internship programs indicates bleak future

If you’ve managed to get through college without someone lecturing you on the importance of landing an internship, count yourself lucky.

As students, we are constantly bombarded with facts and figures about how our generation’s futures are looking bleak, so scoring the blessed internship during your college years has become the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel.

After all, what’s not to like? Internships give you the experience you need to enter the workforce, are tailored to your specific major and can help you figure out what you do or don’t want to do after graduation.

“College students are being very strategic, hoping that these chances will turn into something more than just a volunteer internship opportunity,” said Christina Greer, a political science professor at Fordham University in New York.

But as helpful as it is to intern at a prestigious company, the process is not without its shortcomings.

Critics of internships often end up being the interns themselves — too often they are overworked, underpaid (if paid at all) and not getting the experience they thought they would.

Still, as a working journalist, I’ve always embraced the notion of getting any kind of work experience I can, especially if it’s with a company I admire.

Last week, media publishing giant Condé Nast announced the end of its internship program, which consists of an unpaid summer position at one of the several magazines owned by the company. The move comes after two former interns sued the company, claiming they had been paid below minimum wage for their summer positions.

For as long as I’ve been at this school, the point has been drilled over and over again into my brain: Get as much experience as you can as early as you can.

For many student journalists, Condé Nast is the dream. With magazines such as GQ, Vogue and Vanity Fair under its jurisdiction, the chance to work for the company would have any burgeoning young journalist chomping at the bit.

Reading the news took me back to my own sophomore year at ASU.

I have clear image of sitting in a lecture hall the morning the Condé Nast internship applications became available online. I was unable to apply at the time, because I was too young, but I glanced around the room and noticed three other young women had the exact same application open on their laptops.

Journalism is a dog-eat-dog world.

Being in this field requires a certain amount of passion and drive, the kind that lets you bypass the naysayers who tell you you’re in the wrong career and the same kind that pushes you to apply for as many internships as you possibly can.

The news of Condé Nast eliminating its intern program is heartbreaking to me.

I’m saddened, not because I feel like myself and many other Condé Nast hopefuls will no longer have a foot in the door to the company, but because of what it says about everything I thought would make me successful.

As I come to the end of my college experience, I’m realizing that maybe the work I’ve done at my various internships throughout the last four years is not as integral to the company as I thought.

Indeed, if Condé Nast, a company that seemed to pride itself on the work done by its shimmering, eager young student professionals, can so easily dispense with the labor done by these individuals, what does that say for the future of internships and young professionals in general?

I hope this is an isolated incident and that companies, both journalism-related and not, will not do away with their various internship programs. The experience I gained in my time at ASU was invaluable, and I hope that future generations are afforded the same opportunities.

Reach the columnist at llonghi@asu.edu or follow her on Twitter @lolonghi.