know About Unpaid Internship Positions
Since it’s time for college career fairs and planning for the summer, at least in the academic and graduate sense, I wanted to address the issue of unpaid internships. So in our current difficult economy (and in the past for sure), I’ve had a lot of discussions between my colleges and student employees on the topic of non-zero internships. Recently, one of my conversations revolved around a job ad that had surfaced due to someone’s job search. It was a short job posting with the usual requirements one would expect for an entry-level position in architecture. At the very end of this seemingly beautiful job ad, there were little problems….
Wait, what? Seriously? Unpaid internships are counterproductive for the profession of architecture. This is not an acceptable practice for many reasons. First and foremost, if we as architects do not value ourselves, how can we expect others to do so? As architects, we feel that we are constantly struggling to be valued for our knowledge and skills. I read, hear and see it all the time and have been for almost a decade. What message does this unpaid job posting convey to others in and out of the profession?.. “We have no real value. We are not even worth paying our own within the profession. “And yes, I know that mainly the job seekers would be the only ones who would see this.
But I had very long conversations on this topic. I have even more people online who have participated in this conversation. And then this online discussion with others opens this up to those outside the profession. By the simple act of this conversation, thousands have been able to find out how some in our profession do not attach value to others in our profession. Not good practice. Simple and simple. We cannot expect anyone outside the profession to value architecture when it seems that we don’t even do it among ourselves.
The second problem here is how this spreads into the future. So someone fills this unpaid position. Of course they will. “It is the opportunity to work for big name company”. Once you do, you realize that it is an acceptable practice. In the past, in the future, they chose to solicit unpaid interns as property. Why not? They had to do it when they started. I have a very strong feeling that this is one reason (if not the main one) why this situation is still active in our profession. I’m pretty sure that back then it was more commonplace to do an unpaid internship, hoping to one day become paid staff. These old habits of cryptic gray-haired men of a century were perpetrated in the situation of generation experienced. My great-grandfather walked around the county, in the snow, uphill, in both directions to get to work.
He had no choice then. I would hope that if he had been able to ride a horse, drive a car or fly, he would have been smart enough to adapt and see the benefit of this change. I think that’s why the architectural profession is in the circumstance that it is in today. I don’t think our current profession has to work this way. Not if we want to survive into the future. We must value ourselves. Make a statement (at a minimum) among our peers and colleagues that WE believe in the value of our skills, the value of design, creativity and the pursuit of just income.
Free is not free
After all, this situation implies that design is free; along with the idea that design has no value. This is something that everyone who designs something has to action against. Design and creativity have an inherent price. It takes work, time and effort, even for those who make it look exhaustive. Good design is not fast. Never. It develops over time. The skills to make it appear quickly also take time. A single creative thought awakens many more ideas until you can finally generate a coherent idea. It takes time. I think a real designer is always at work. They design constantly. They design the automotive world of them as they cross it. So design is always a work in progress. Not everyone is capable of such a creative process and therin lies the intrinsic value; the value of our professional skills and knowledge.
This is the reason why professionals should be paid to undertake this endeavor in any matter. I know that it is possible to argue that they are just “interns” and know very little and bring very little to the office, but this simply propagates the fallacy. If you want to avoid in your office, they offer value. If not, they would just let monkeys work for free. You can teach the scorched to solve puzzles and click on nerve cell buttons.
Conclusion … The Design is not free. If we are annoyed that the society around us does not attach enough value to our profession, we cannot be hypocritical about the value we attach to those who enter our profession. Repeat. The Design is not free.