Meet the newest class of labor-market slogger: the perma intern.
The perma interns are those scarily young types moving into those cubicles vacated by layoff victims. They may even be your digital sherpa, guidling the clueless you through the dizzying terrain of social networking. It is not your imagination. They are indeed staying in the internships longer than you—or they—ever expected.
Flung into the worst labor market since the 1940s, these college-educated strivers are stuck on the lowest rung of the labor market. Making matters worse: the shriveling—and in some cases disappearing—pay. Free labor, anyone?
This has some fretting over intern abuse. “I believe that employers are taking much more advantage of interns, actually giving us work like if we were full time employees,” says an intern at a international shipping company in Miami.
No doubt many companies are keeping interns on board for longer stints to cover up for the fact that they’ve had so many layoffs. Says perma intern, Ruben Sanchez: “I believe that I have been taking on projects not normally given to interns. I have handled highly classified information from “secret” clients due to the lack of employees.”
I asked Lauren Berger, The Intern Queen, about what was going on.
Here’s what she had to say:
“With an increased amount of layoffs and the inability to hire full-time employees, companies are turning to interns to get the work done. Companies that used to use only one or two interns are now asking me for five or six at a time.
Large employers who used to pay their interns have cut their paid internship programs and turned them into either no program or unpaid programs.
Many companies have interns running their entire social media campaigns. Students have already integrated social networking tools like Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter into their everyday lives so it’s much easier to have a student run these areas than hiring a new employee that might have to first learn about them.”
Berger also mentioned another development: the rise of the “adult intern.”
Says Berger, “Adults that have been recently laid off or are trying to transition into second careers, are starting to look for internships. These types of internships have been termed “alternative internships.”
Adult interns? Scary.
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