Unpaid Internships: Scam or Success?

I say SUCCESS… Depending on the opportunity.

The email below was received after we posted one of our Internship offerings on craigslist.com. I can certainly appreciate the emotion that the author was feeling, which compelled him (or her) to take the precious time to reach out to us while chastising our methods.  If this person was searching Craigslist for a job or a paid internship, I wonder why they would take the time, excuse me, waste the time to write to us knowing that our opportunity wasn’t for them? Anyway, I feel sorry for the author if he/she had a negative experience from a previous internship. I also feel sorry for his/her future employers because feelings of entitlement in the workplace and in general society don’t really attract much positivity. I appreciate those who can also appreciate hard work, earning what you get, learning the ropes, earning their stripes, and those are willing to do whatever it takes to get where they want to go. My team must exude these qualities, wouldn’t you want yours to??


Response to Craigslist Ad:


Students and interns DO need “experience”. But they do NOT need to get it by giving their work away. In fact, no pay internships do not offer the professional experience they need.


Anyone who will not/can not pay them is obviously the type of person or business they should be ashamed to have on their resume anyway. Do you think professional contractors list the “experience” they got while nailing down a loose step at their grandmother’s house when they were seventeen?


If you, your company or gig was worth listing as desired experience, it would be able to pay for the services it received. The only experience they will get doing free work for you is a lesson learned in what kinds of scrubs they should not lower themselves to deal with.


I personally appreciated the above posted email because it sparked a great conversation in the office. We decided to take something negative and turn into something positive. What you will see below are some equally evoked responses from some of my current Interns (who by the way, regularly go above and beyond the call of duty). I enjoyed their reactions and the discussion that followed regarding the importance of internships and gaining experience. For the record, I appreciate my intern team more than anything. Our Interns are vital for the day to day operations and progression of company goals. The participation and task completion by our Intern team is extremely helpful and also provides an understanding of the opinions and desires of young music listeners and customers. New and fresh ideas come just as easily from the hungry minds of college students than the seasoned industry professionals.


For me, Interns provide a youthful vibrant atmosphere to the office on any given day. Tasks given to them are meant to introduce or reinforce a better understanding of the company’s mission and vision while hopefully sparking their interest to go above and beyond in effectively carrying out the assignment. At the end of the experience, the Intern should have a better idea of what they want to do with their lives and careers- so essentially we are helping to shape the work force of the future. That feels really good to me. It is important for me as an Internship provider to choose Interns who are hungry, driven, ambitious, passionate, dedicated, and who genuinely want to be here and show that they can make a difference. That is another reason why I appreciated the discussion we had regarding internships because all of this was confirmed for me! A special “Thank You” goes out to Kendra, Brad, and Kate for responding to the email and for allowing their thoughts to be added to our blog!


MAE Intern Response 1:


I would have to say that I wholeheartedly disagree with your point of view on unpaid internships.


First of all, the majority of internships are completed as a substitute for college credit. Instead of a paycheck, students earn life experience and valuable skills in place of being lectured to or reading countless chapters from monotonous textbooks.


Secondly, many large, reputable businesses provide students with the opportunity to intern with them, not just small upstart companies. Take MTV for example. Are you saying that MTV wouldn’t be a valuable addition to any resume? I do not think that any interviewer would scoff at an unpaid internship experience from it, or from any other business.


Thirdly, personal accomplishments are something to be proud of whether they receive “proper” recognition or not. There are no substitutes for values, passion, and a strong work ethic. Business owners want their employees to be committed and dedicated to their work, and what better way is there to learn them than at an internship supporting an industry that you care about? Of course, money is important to pay the bills, but it isn’t what ones entire live should revolve around.


I would also like to add that I am not even interning for credit, but only for the experience. It’s truly invaluable and I am participating in a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that you should only hope to be able to experience one day. You are fully entitled to have your opinion, I just hope that you can now be a little more open-minded and understanding of why people should be proud, not “ashamed,” to put any type of experience on their resume. Knowledge is power. Have a nice day.


 -Kate, Mass Appeal Entertainment


MAE Intern Response 2:


Since the beginning the Music Industry has always offered internships for students and persons interested in the industry insight as to what goes on and how it works. It is not a typical industry where you train for your job at a University and start earning a living right off the bat. MOST industry internships are unpaid. Many of the jobs you take in this industry are used to build relationships and meet contacts. Look at anybody who has worked from the ground up and are successful in the Music Industry.  Sean “Diddy” Combs is a prime example; Sean started out as an Uptown Records intern, working for nothing because he LOVED music and saw the opportunity to show his hard work, dedication, and craft in the business.


So if you don’t like how this industry works, stay out of it and don’t waste your time writing petty emails when you have no clue what you are talking about. People “give” their work away to bond, build, create, and maintain relationships. They “give” their work away to get their name out there with the hope and belief that when an Executive job opportunity comes around, they have had the professional experience to do their job efficiently and properly. Working for $15/hour at a company filing invoices isn’t what the music industry is about. Working in this industry is about charisma, intelligence, the ability to spot new talent, people skills, and have the connections to make YOUR name mean something.


With your attitude towards this industry I hope you aren’t involved in it. If you are, get out quick because you won’t make it. I personally posted the Internship Ad you read and I gladly work for nothing, to gain experience and the reputation as a positive, hard working, smart individual in the music industry. Go get lost in the masses of other people who can’t stomach the fact that they might have to work a few days out of the week, not for nothing- but for something they are passionate about.


-Brad, Mass Appeal Entertainment

MAE Intern Response 3:

As an interning student I feel somewhat insulted by this unnecessary email. You can have your opinion on unpaid internships and you don’t have to apply for them. However when you’re lashing out and taking your time to tell a company that they’re “wrong”, it just makes you look immature and silly.


I’d like to throw in my reasons for taking an unpaid internship and why I’m not “lowering” myself in doing so.


First off I took my internship for college credit. I’m working for the credit and experience. This internship is an opportunity for me to explore other areas in design, something that I appreciate in regards to my future.


I actually think that unpaid internships are better than the paid ones. I have had more design related experience at this current internship than any other. I have friends who are currently in paying internships and complain how they sit around and answer phones while being marginalized. Sure there are some great internships that pay but they are rare. I get back on campus at the end of the day and get to say that I worked on a magazine ad or some cell phone wallpapers or some buddy icons. What’s even cooler is that stuff I created is up online and helping to promote a musician right now.


So I am by no means “ashamed” of putting Mass Appeal Entertainment on my resume. In fact I am proud to because I am receiving great experience. I’m learning about graphic design and seeing how a company is run. I feel that this payoff is much more valuable that an hourly wage.


-Kendra, Mass Appeal Entertainment



Posted by Rochelle for Mass Appeal Entertainment



  1. simon Said:

    the whole argument is not against internships that are for college credit or when a person willingly goes and offers themselves to a company, the argument is against those “bad” guys who abuse their power and never give any kind of credit to the interns. It’s the intention of the person offering the internships that is the whole argument around, not anything else. Internships are not bad but “internships” has come to mean a “good thing” when it isn’t always so. that’s all that we are trying to say. I want interns to question their internship … not necessarily dismiss it. thanks.

  2. I am glad that you are defending the original email, however, the email does not say anything that differentiates between good guys and bad guys, it says that no pay internships are unprofessional and a waste of time, more or less. I have to disagree with that.

    I do however agree with you in that interns should question their internships- both before accepting and while there. I believe that internships, at least the ones I offer, are an exchange. Time, effort, input from the intern for knowledge, experience, references, and a letter of recommendation from us.

    If I received an email with what you have said, myself and the interns who participated in this post probably would have agreed and not even had the discussion that we did.

    Thank you for visiting our site and for leaving your opinion!


{ RSS feed for comments on this post} · { TrackBack URI }

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: