Even though we're led to believe that internships are the key to successful careers, we're also wary of companies that take advantage of the free labor, relegating interns to coffee runs or leftover tasks that don't enhance professional development. Students, new graduates, or even professionals looking to change careers and gain experience in an unfamiliar field can avoid being taken advantage of if they know their rights under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). For example, unpaid internships are legal under federal law, but only if it meets specific criteria, and too often companies play fast and loose with the details of an internship in attempts to qualify. Here's the best advice from employers and labor activists about what to look for in a company's internship program.

1. Be clear if the position is paid or unpaid

The FLSA requires employers to pay employees for their work, but what defines an "employee" from an "intern?" Officially, courts impose the "primary beneficiary test," which is a loose set of criteria that only defines the difference in terms of how the employer and the intern understand the position. Namely, if the internship provides more benefits to the employer in terms of labor, cost, and company services, then the intern must be regarded as an employee. Conversely, if the position provides professional training comparable to an educational environment, enhances (rather than inhibits) the intern's coursework, and both the employer and intern clearly understand that no paid job is promised at the end of the program, then (and only then) is it legal to not pay an intern. Additionally, if the company is a non-profit, then they're granted an exception and may count unpaid interns as volunteers

2. Look for positions relevant to your field

The point of an internship is to gain professional experience and training. Look for opportunities that have built-in support systems to provide hands-on experience in the field of your choice. Be clear about what duties will be expected of you in the position.

3. Ask about mentors

In addition to gaining experience, the goals of an internship include meeting mentors who are invested in your progress. Particularly strong programs allow interns to access higher level executives. This will not only help you network in your professional future, it will enhance your understanding of the field.

4. Be aware of time commitment and living costs

Since unpaid internships can't guarantee a paid position at the end of the program, pay attention to how long the internship lasts and if the time investment will be worth it. Be careful to consider if your lifestyle can be maintained for that duration of time. Even if the position is a paid opportunity of your dreams, like the Disney College Program, be clear if the internship is limited to one-semester or longer. For example, the Disney internship is only available to enrolled students, lasts one-semester, and requires an application fee as well as a housing fee.

5. Relocation

The last point is especially crucial if an internship requires relocation. Ideal opportunities are worth the sacrifices of time and even creature comforts, but they need to be feasible. If you're required to relocate, don't jump to apply unless you're reasonably certain you have the means and willingness to change your environment. Does the internship offer housing? Is there's a fee, how much is it? Does the program compensate transportation costs? Be certain you know the answers before you apply.

Internships are strong enhancements on resumes and can introduce you to a network of professionals to begin your new career. However, legalities and logistics are vital to work out before you apply to a program that could take advantage of your time, energy, and skills.

PayPath
Follow Us on

Over two years into the most momentous event in our lives the world has changed forever … Some of us have PTSD from being locked up at home, some are living like everything’s going to end tomorrow, and the rest of us are merely trying to get by. When the pandemic hit we entered a perpetual state of vulnerability, but now we’re supposed to return to normal and just get on with our lives.

What does that mean? Packed bars, concerts, and grocery shopping without a mask feel totally strange. We got used to having more rules over our everyday life, considering if we really had to go out or keeping Zooming from our living rooms in threadbare pajama bottoms.

The work-from-home culture changed it all. Initially, companies were skeptical about letting employees work remotely, automatically assuming work output would fall and so would the quality. To the contrary, since March of 2020 productivity has risen by 47%, which says it all. Employees can work from home and still deliver results.

There are a number of reasons why everyone loves the work from home culture. We gained hours weekly that were wasted on public transport, people saved a ton of money, and could work from anywhere in the world. Then there were the obvious reasons like wearing sweats or loungewear all week long and having your pets close by. Come on, whose cat hasn’t done a tap dance on your keyboard in the middle of that All Hands Call!

Working from home grants the freedom to decorate your ‘office’ any way you want. But then people needed a change of environment. Companies began requesting their employees' RTO, thus generating the Hybrid Work Model — a blend of in-person and virtual work arrangements. Prior to 2020, about 20% of employees worked from home, but in the midst of the pandemic, it exploded to around 70%.

Although the number of people working from home increased and people enjoyed their flexibility, politicians started calling for a harder RTW policy. President Joe Biden urges us with, “It’s time for Americans to get back to work and fill our great downtowns again.”

While Boris Johnson said, “Mother Nature does not like working from home.'' It wasn’t surprising that politicians wanted people back at their desks due to the financial impact of working from the office. According to a report in the BBC, US workers spent between $2,000 - $5,000 each year on transport to work before the pandemic.

That’s where the problem lies. The majority of us stopped planning for public transport, takeaway coffee, and fresh work-appropriate outfits. We must reconsider these things now, and our wallets are paying

the price. Gas costs are at an all-time high, making public transport increase their fees; food and clothes are all on a steep incline. A simple iced latte from Dunkin’ went from $3.70 to $3.99 (which doesn’t seem like much but 2-3 coffees a day with the extra flavors and shots add up to a lot), while sandwiches soared by 14% and salads by 11%.

This contributes to the pressure employees feel about heading into the office. Remote work may have begun as a safety measure, but it’s now a savings measure for employees around the world.

Bloomberg are offering its US staff a $75 daily commuting stipend that they can spend however they want. And other companies are doing the best they can. This still lends credence to ‘the great resignation.’ Initially starting with the retail, food service, and hospitality sectors which were hard hit during the pandemic, it has since spread to other industries. By September 2021, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics reported 4.4 million resignations.

That’s where the most critical question lies…work from home, work from the office or stick to this new hybrid world culture?

Borris Johnson thinks, “We need to get back into the habit of getting into the office.” Because his experience of working from home “is you spend an awful lot of time making another cup of coffee and then, you know, getting up, walking very slowly to the fridge, hacking off a small piece of cheese, then walking very slowly back to your laptop and then forgetting what it was you’re doing.”

While New York City Mayor Eric Adams says you “can't stay home in your pajamas all day."

In the end, does it really matter where we work if efficiency and productivity are great? We’ve proven that companies can trust us to achieve the same results — or better! — and on time with this hybrid model. Employees can be more flexible, which boosts satisfaction, improves both productivity and retention, and improves diversity in the workplace because corporations can hire through the US and indeed all over the world.

We’ve seen companies make this work in many ways, through virtual lunches, breakout rooms, paint and prosecco parties, and — the most popular — trivia nights.

As much as we strive for normalcy, the last two years cannot simply be erased. So instead of wiping out this era, it's time to embrace the change and find the right world culture for you.

What would get you into the office? Free lunch? A gym membership? Permission to hang out with your dog? Some employers are trying just that.

Keep reading Show less

Did you hear about the Great Resignation? It isn’t over. Just over two years of pandemic living, many offices are finally returning to full-time or hybrid experiences. This is causing employees to totally reconsider their positions.

Keep reading Show less