The internship. It’s not a universal requirement for all college students, but simultaneously, it is.
Most universities highly recommend, if not require, some type of internship experience for many degree and major completions. And whether a university requires it or not, millennials want these experiences.
According to a study on the graduating class of 2013, 63% of students completed an internship during their collegiate years — 48% of these students held an unpaid position.
How does a generation already burdened with unprecedented levels of student loan debt manage to take on full-time, unpaid positions? Some of its members don’t. They forego the internship requirement. Others take on the challenge and find ways to financially support themselves.
What Millennials Give
Aliya Alenikov is in the latter group. Alenikov accepted an unpaid position this summer in Washington, DC. To do this, in addition to full-time study, she worked for a year and saved every dollar of every paycheck.
As an intern, she pays for her own housing, food, and miscellaneous expenses. The only compensation she receives is for public transportation to and from work.
However, even given these difficulties, Alenikov says she had little hesitation when deciding to accept the position.
“Even though it is far from home, it is a priceless work experience and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Alenikov says.
What Millennials Get
Unlike internship programs of yesteryear, today’s college-aged kids are no longer fetching coffee and making copies.
Millennial and current full-time Callahan industry analyst, Greg Gonsalves, reflects on his internship experiences.
“They provided strong benefits, but I don’t know if I viewed it that way when I was doing them,” he says. “Before, I thought internships were just a way to network and build out a list of names on a resume. Now, I realize they also offered a way to develop more, varied skills — which I can put on my resume.”
These are all important components of the internship experience, and not for nothing, Alenikov and other millennials see unlimited possibilities coming from internships.
Paid or unpaid, more than 70% of those who held internships graduated with a job offer from their internship employer, according to a 2016 study from Vault, a company ranking and review site for students.
“People get internships, and companies hire kids directly out of those internship programs,” says Rachele Miller, a student at DePauw University who is also an intern in Indianapolis, IN.
Although internships might carry positive implications for future employability, remaining financially stable while doing them is a problem.
Miller receives pay for her work as an intern. If she didn’t, she’s not sure she would have been able to accept it.
“I never looked at any unpaid internships,” Miller says. “Part of the reason I took this internship was because they paid for housing. That was a huge plus for me.”
But even paid internships can pose some financial difficulty.
Maegan Barry is a student at Oklahoma State University and is currently working a paid internship in Washington, DC. But what does “paid” really entail for Barry?
“I am technically paying to be here” she says. “I am not making enough money to live here and support myself.”
And Gonsalves adds even paid internships aren’t life-altering on the pocketbook.
“Interns don’t get paid so much that I’d be living a different life after one or two summers of internships,” he says. “I don’t think earning that intern paycheck offers any long-term benefits.”
But the costs incurred during an internship can have long-term consequences.
Many millennials go through extensive lengths to afford living expenses during unpaid internships. These steps include building a large savings during the school year, taking out additional loans, and picking up multiple jobs.
The Credit Union Role
Credit unions might not be able to offer every millennial member an internship, but they can help members deal with depleted savings accounts and growing debt.
Both Alenikov and Miller discussed their nonexistent relationships with financial institutions. As is common among millennials, they do most of their banking online and on mobile.
As I’ve previously covered, millennials are not exposed to the array of offerings credit unions provide. They instead focus on their present financial picture rather than actively preparing for the future.
That’s a problem, but students can’t use what they don’t know is available.
“I’ve never used financial planning from my bank,” says Emma Tippett, an unpaid intern in Washington, DC, and student at University of North Carolina. “I didn’t know it was an option.”
What financial education and planning do you offer that is specifically geared toward the challenges and opportunities of your millennial members? And do these members know about these services? Asking these questions today might be a good start to building relationships and ensuring the future financial health of an active member tomorrow.