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Paying to Intern

Students, it seems, are so desperate for experience that they’re not only willing to work for free, but to pay to do so.

Elizabeth Hoyt

May 29, 2013

Paying to Intern
In this job market, experience is everything. How do you get invaluable job experience? Work an internship, of course. But with more students than internship opportunities, the competition is fierce. Students are forced to adopt a “by any means necessary” attitude in hopes of getting ahead. Most recently, this includes paying to open doors. Let’s be clear: we’re not referring to the financial hit you take working an unpaid internship. No, what we’re talking about is honest-to-goodness, outright payment in order to secure an unpaid internship.

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Students, it seems, are so desperate for experience that they’re not only willing to work for free, but to pay to do so. It’s been said that necessity is the mother of invention. This holds true in the creation of companies, like Absolute Internship, Intrax Global Internships and CRCC Asia, which provide Western students for the opportunity to work in China—for a price. Students pay anywhere from $3,000-$6,000 for the third-party internship organizers to match them with an opportunity, which usually does not include the cost of travel. Some companies do include visas, housing and other amenities. The prices vary based on location and the length of the program chosen. Most of the internships are unpaid and none have guaranteed salaries. Some, however, do afford college credit for the internship hours. There is the benefit of that priceless international work experience to add to resumes, too. Many students also value the opportunity to work in China, where the global economy is booming more with each passing day. Often times, students are matched with U.S. companies that have branches within Asia but the opportunities aren’t limited to Asia alone.
Students from all over the world and all nationalities are encouraged to apply. Therefore, opportunities are available internationally so that students are able to gain international experience, no matter where their roots reside. Students are able to customize their own internship experience, which means they are able to choose the location of their program, as well as the industry they will be working within. In addition to work placement, joint language programs are offered within many of the programs. The intern’s goals include international work experience, being immersed within a new culture and, the ultimate hope of landing a job or, perhaps, job connection at the end of the internship period. The companies report that business is growing and that demand is so great that they’re forced to turn away most applicants. This year, for example, Absolute Internship estimated that they received five times the number of intern applicants than in 2012. CRCC Asia reports that American students’ interest in China-based internships raised an estimated 40-50 percent higher than last year. Similarly, Intrax Global Internships is reporting a 50 percent increase in student interest. “With the job market so depressed in the U.K. and U.S., China offers a great opportunity to get a long-term career,” says Daniel Nivern, Director of the London-based recruitment consultancy, CRCC Asia. Absolute Internship is planning to match 600 students to internships this summer and CRCC Asiais expecting to place 1,500 students in internships within 2013. Company leaders equate the internship fees to that of a study abroad program since academic credit is often available. Some of the companies, schools and other organizations even offer financial aid for those seeking to utilize a third-party internship organizer. Based on reports, the experience seems mutually beneficial. Though there is an inevitable adjustment period, participating companies value having American students on staff. English speaking staff members helps with language barriers that companies find difficult to combat. The spike in interest from potential Western interns is profitable for both the companies and the economy of the country they're located. Participants of such programs report that potential employers are impressed with their experience, especially given that it was in a different country. That alone may be enough to provide students with the competitive advantage to land their first job. Keep in mind that, as with most good things, the opportunity comes at a price. Whether or not you decide it’s worth paying for is up to you.

How much would you pay to make yourself stand out from the crowd of applicants? Where would you draw the line?

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