Being Paid for Paying Your Dues

Last fall, Diana Wang fulfilled her dream of working at Harper’s Bazaar. She was given a coveted role as an unpaid intern in the accessories area of the magazine. Just 4 months later, Wang filed suit against Bazaar’s parent company, the Hearst Corporation, for not paying her for her work.

Wang describes her job as “ outrageous and belittling.”

As she recounts, she worked five days a week, from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., tracking thousands of shoes, bags, scarves and jewelry lent to the magazine for photo shoots. She managed other interns, sending them on errands and helping to file expense reports. She also answered the accessories director’s phone, and filtered her calls.

Did she work long days and handle not so glamorous tasks? Absolutely. Were they outrageous and belittling? Hardly.

While the U.S. Department of Labor states that internships must be educational and for the benefit of the intern, it is open to speculation, whether or not this experience fits the bill.
Did Ms. Wang have an opportunity to see first hand what really goes on at a fashion magazine? Was she able to learn useful skills, and gain exposure? Is that not considered beneficial? It is in my book.

Did she really expect that she would be sitting front row at fashion week as an intern?

I posed these questions on my Facebook page last week, and got a lot of interesting feedback.

While many feel that large companies are taking advantage of young people by using their services as unpaid interns, most felt that this woman had an inflated sense of entitlement.

Our recent economic situation has spawned an unpaid workforce, and internships have become the replacement for entry-level jobs.

One is now expected to have a full resume of internships under their belt, before being considered for a paid role in many industries.

In areas such as fashion, roles at prestigious companies are highly sought after. A positive internship experience can be the ticket to a future career.

This women was not asked to do anything that didn’t need to be done, or was truly belittling.  I would venture to say that most of her bosses had performed those duties at some point at the early stages of their career. Four months of corporate servitude is hardly worth a lawsuit.

Unless she somehow parlays millions of dollars out of the suit, (which is highly doubtful) she has frittered away her dream of succeeding in the world of fashion publishing.

It appears she didn’t want the career of her dreams bad enough to actually work for it, and pay her dues.

What do you think? Does she have a valid case, or is she a spoiled and entitled product of her generation?

Join the conversation and leave a comment below.

photo: Glasshouse Images

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2 Responses to “Being Paid for Paying Your Dues”

  1. julie hansen Says:

    Spoiled and Entitled- I would have loved to be able to do that job at her age- she has no idea what doors WOULD have been open to her that are now CLOSED. Many now don’t want to put the time in ,they think they deserve the job title without the work- but these young adults have been given trophies for everything they have done since they were a child weather they were good or not – So they have grandiose ideals of themselves.
    Yes, you have touched a nerve!
    great blog!

  2. Andrea Shahan Says:

    Absolutely spoiled and entitled, (a common complaint about young adults–for the last decade, really). The kind of work experience described is priceless if you really do want to work in the field, and if you decide that it’s not what you want as a career, do a great job and leave gracefully, with good recommendations. I’ve also run into this sense of entitlement from interns, but I’ve had really great college-age interns work for me as well, who get that “paying your dues” is a two-way exchange.

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