Escaping Intern Nation


Recently, the Millennial Generation, people born from approximately 1980 onward, has been labeled the Intern Nation because college graduates seem unable to escape the cycle of internships. So, how can Fordham students avoid the same jobless fate post-graduation?

Both Bernard Stratford, director of experiential education, and Brian Rose, professor of communications and media studies, agree that undergraduate internships are necessary and beneficial for both experience and networking.

However, Stratford’s concerns arise if and when the internship disrupts academic life. “The key factor is you never want an internship experience to take way from the academic experience. It is critical that you celebrate, participate and understand the wisdom and the value that is in the core curriculum,” Stratford said.

Stratford recognizes that “students today don’t have the luxury to go to college and not pay attention to what is going on in the world of work.”

Rose said, “Undergraduate internships are a valuable way to: A. supplement what you learn in classes; B. to understand the difference between work and school most valuable; C. and most valuably, to establish a whole community of network contacts so when you graduate, you can be connected to people who can point you in terms of [job] leads or maybe even hire you.”

While internships “have been subject to abuse,” Rose explains that “more and more, companies are requiring that you get academic credit for internships. If they do that, Fordham makes them live up to that standard. This has to be an ‘academic’ experience and this is legal as well.”

According to the Department of Labor, the six standards for unpaid internships are: one, an educational environment; two, internships are for the benefit of the intern; three, interns should not displace employees; four, employers do not get immediate advantages from the intern; five, interns are not guaranteed employment at the end of internships; six, with all other standards met, the intern is not entitled to wages.

As for the college graduates who are seemingly stuck in the Intern Nation, Rose believes that “those are not our [Fordham] students. That is not going to happen. I’ve rarely met or heard of a Fordham grad still doing internships.”

Rose said the point of students participating in internships in the first place is so they are not stranded post-graduation. He speculated that most of those stuck in the unending internship cycle may have never done an internship in college.

Stratford suggested that any graduates still interning should not “put all their eggs in one internship.” In his opinion, internships should not exceed 20 hours a week. Rather than spending time applying to 300 internships a month, as one Millennial interviewed by the New York Times did, graduates should apply that time networking.

Stratford finds that post-graduate interns that work part-time in tandem with their internships are more successful than those that fully immerse themselves in the internship.

What are the causes of the vast numbers of non-hires at the end of internships? Both Stratford and Rose attribute some non-hiring to the economy.

“In 2008, when Leemon Brother’s went out of business, and we bailed out AIG and the car industries, the economy crisis and crash, we lost somewhere between a quarter and a third of the national wealth, depending on the analysts. That had taken more than 200 years to develop,” Stratford said. This changed the world of work, a change he believes would have came in an evolutionary way, regardless of the crash.

“We changed from a manufacturing economy in the 1970s, to a knowledge economy, and now with all the technological advances, are now an idea and concept economy,” Stratford said. He also attributes some of the youth unemployment to intergenerational factors and demographic shifts of the economy.  Specifically, Stratford referenced “the Netgeners,” a term coined by Don Tapscott in his book “Growing Up Digital,” refers to the generation of people born around 1970s who have spent their whole lives with the internet.

According to Tapscott, these Netgeners are formatting the future of the world of work through their awareness, understanding and use of technology. “However, they do not have the power or money. That control still lies with the baby-boomer generation. This has never happened in the history of the human experience. Always the powerful and the rich format the future,” Stanford explained.

Rose said, “The recession has hurt, the consolidation of industries has hurt because there are fewer and fewer places, but at the same time there are more startup companies.”

Rose believes that those who are focused and hardworking should be able to survive in regards to the job market.

However, some students believe that it is important to take advantage of all the opportunities offered, even if they are all internships.  Isoke Cullins, FCLC ’17, said “They may seem small or insignificant but everything happens for a reason. If you are being offered an internship, you will probably benefit from it. You can learn the processes … and who knows if you are working for a company that is not well known, you have the potential to be the force to help build that company. Every company was a startup company at one point.”