This Recession’s “New” Entry Level

A new person started working today at one of my jobs. A lovely, demure young woman, who was educated in NY and abroad. She has worked in various government organizations and non-profits, published in a scholarly journal and enjoys researching new developments in her practice area.

Yet, like me, she is also working for no pay. Unable to find a job after receiving her LLM, she is now interning at two organizations to gain experience that will hopefully, one day, get her a paid position.

There was an article on CNN today on how internships have become the new entry level jobs. The article mistakenly limits this new trend to those fresh out of college. Unfortunately, the internship has become the new entry level for many folks, including those with advanced degrees and career-changers. In this recession, where the employer has all the leverage, there are thousands of people willing to take non-paying jobs just to get a foot in the door, have some experience to put on their resumes, or simply have something to do besides sitting at home sulking about the lack of job opportunities.

Although we need to fill our resumes, I can’t help but feel we are doing a disservice to each other with this willingness to work for free or lower pay. Employers have benefited by the recession: those employees they retained are “grateful” for their jobs and feel the need to work twice as hard just to keep it. Employers, in turn, feel justified in their treatment, however unfair or demoralizing it might be. They can also take on new individuals without any form of compensation. No need for a salary, stipend, bonus, or health insurance – in this recession, the incentive and reward is in simply having something to put on a resume.

In an attempt to ensure our own professional development, I fear we are enabling employers to mistreat, abuse and misuse the unemployed. No one wants gaps in their resume, or to spend their days constantly tweaking and revising resumes and cover letters without any skills to sell. But we also cannot allow our skills to be devalued at the risk of losing our own sense of self-worth.

As grateful as I am to have something substantive on my resume, I hope that this surge in “internships” as the new entry level is only temporary, and that employers don’t get used to their current position of power. There are too many qualified and educated people out there that deserve to be valued for their skills and experience – too many, quite frankly, that simply deserve the paycheck. MAEBYWT9JK6B


About MelissaR

Lover of words and movement. View all posts by MelissaR

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