“We need to hire a 22-22-22,” one new-media manager was overheard saying recently, meaning a 22-year-old willing to work 22-hour days for $22,000 a year. Perhaps the middle figure is an exaggeration, but its bookends certainly aren’t.
“The notion of the traditional entry-level job is disappearing,” said Ross Perlin, 29, the author of “Intern Nation: How to Earn Nothing and Learn Little in the Brave New Economy.” Internships have replaced them, he said, “but also fellowships and nebulous titles that sound prestigious and pay a stipend, which means you’re only coming out with $15,000 a year.”
Once a short-term commitment at most, internships have become an obligatory rite of passage that often drags on for years.
First, they externalize their training costs by having workers pay for their own training- that is, college. Then, once they’re out of college, they externalize their labor costs via the carrot-on-a-stick of the unpaid internship. Maybe if you work really hard, you’ll get noticed and they’ll actually start paying you. In the meantime, they get free work.
The Invisible Hand is, in actuality, a well-lubed fist.