Staff Editorial: Transition from graduate to professional begins now

For graduating seniors, it’s the final stretch. Many students are currently looking for employment opportunities, hoping that the career-related activities completed on and off campus over the last few years will give them the edge needed over their competitors.

Others may be taking this time to address the hollowness of their current resume by doing volunteer work in their field of interest or by means of an unpaid internship. However, while desperation to better future prospects may lead a senior to do free work in exchange for further experience, references or a job offer, it is important to keep in mind that the education received at CSUN makes a graduate a valuable asset to any organization, therefore worthy of formal compensation in return.

In the New York Times article, “Growth of Unpaid Internships May Be Illegal, Officials Say,” published April 2, 2010 this very issue is addressed. With employment options scarce for recent college graduates, there has been a significant increase in unpaid internships available in the job market.

While there are benefits to an unpaid internship such as hands-on experience and networking, it is the responsibility of the employer to meet federal and state regulations.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Fair Labor Standards Act, a person is designated a trainee – i.e. unpaid intern – and not an employee if the below criteria is met:

1. The training, even though it includes actual operation of the facilities of the employer, is similar to what would be given in a vocational school or academic educational instruction;

2. The training is for the benefit of the trainees;

3. The trainees do not displace regular employees, but work under their close observation;

4. The employer that provides the training derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the trainees, and on occasion the employer’s operations may actually be impeded;

5. The trainees are not necessarily entitled to a job at the conclusion of the training period; and

6. The employer and the trainees understand that the trainees are not entitled to wages for the time spent in training.

Oftentimes, a person can sense when the tasks being asked of them at their internship are weighty and that of a slothful employee who simply redirected the work to the giddy intern. It is vital that young people not sit idly and take maltreatment because, well, “I’m just an intern. This is a short term gig and I can put it on my resume. It will be worth it in the end.” Instead, take a proactive step and seek out opportunities in organizations that see their interns as a part of a team and an investment in the future of the organization.

Furthermore, it is important that young people not sell themselves short. While filling out those internship applications, distribute that resume for some paid job positions. Still in inferior-apprentice mode, many students are conditioned to believe their efforts thus far aren’t worth compensation.

Soon-to-be graduates are no longer students, but scholars. With a diploma in reach, graduates must begin to see themselves as professionals. Or, as the late self help author Robert Collier so purely put it in “The Secret of the Ages,” “Your chances of success in any undertaking can always be measured by your belief in yourself.”

Unsigned editorials represent the majority view of the Sundial editorial board and are not necessarily those of the journalism department. Other views on the opinion page are those of the individual writer.