Toronto Metropolitan University

File(s) not publicly available

Stringtern: springboarding or stringing along young interns’ careers?

journal contribution
posted on 2024-03-25, 19:15 authored by Jenna JacobsonJenna Jacobson, Leslie Regan Shade

Young people are repeatedly promised that internships will pave the way to the career of their dreams by providing the ‘hands-on experience’ necessary to differentiate themselves in a fierce job market. However, in many industries, internships – and increasingly unpaid internships – have become the obligatory norm. Young people quickly learn that the internship is not an opportunity, but rather a ‘necessary evil’ that, for many, strings them along in the hope that it may lead to a less precarious paid opportunity. In this article, our findings are based on 12 in-depth interviews with young female interns in the creative industries based in Toronto and New York City. Our participants recognise that in the current economic climate, they need to ‘pay their dues’; however, they often enter into a system of sequential – or string – internships, and become, what we label, a stringtern. In an evolving internship market in North America, we develop a typology of internships including (1) paid/underpaid/unpaid, (2) academic credit/not-for-credit, (3) for-profit/non-profit, (4) full-time/part-time and (5) on-site/off-site to develop a common language to critically analyse the culture of internships. By valuing young people’s perspectives as gleaned from our interviews, the typology aims to provide a more nuanced way to approach the complexity of unpaid internships and the transition from education to the workforce. Furthermore, three interrelated implications of the culture of internships are identified: internship as a free trial, internship as conveyor-belt labour and internship as displacing paid employment.





Usage metrics

    Ted Rogers School of Management


    Ref. manager