Traditionally, interns were relatively young, inexperienced workers hoping to gain real-world experience. But hard times have forced older workers to try the intern option. Fearing that employers shun applicants with long, unexplained career gaps, ambitious but unemployed people are opting for unpaid internships.
On the surface, that looks like a win-win. The intern builds skills and prevents big résumé holes. The employer gets free labor in exchange for the cost of a computer, some office space and a little coffee.
But before you get carried away by the prospect of marvelous production for virtually no cost, let’s have a reality check.
‘Free’ workers can cost big
The Fair Labor Standards Act ((register to read more)) requires interns to receive some educational benefit from the internship. Further, the employer-intern relationship must meet six criteria to be in compliance. Employers that fail to meet all six must pay the intern at least ...