Fake Internships Still Exist, I Learned This Summer

One thing that practically every college student wants an experience with at some point in order to pursue their career path: an internship.

During the winter quarter of my freshman year at UCSB, I started applying to a few internships. I quickly realized how slim my chances were due to me being a first year with little experience, as well as the steep competition among other college students. 

Still, I had nothing to lose so I kept seeking opportunities. 

Fast forward to spring quarter, I’m at home doing online classes due to covid-19. At this point, I wasn’t getting any calls back from any firms, and slowly realized that a lot of these places prefer juniors and seniors. So, I kept logging on to LinkedIn daily and continually applied to any place looking for marketing interns.

Finally, on May 5th, I checked my emailed and found out that I got offered my first unpaid internship! It was a digital marketing role for this company and it got me intrigued. The person gave me a brief description of what their company does and asked to video chat in the next few weeks if I was interested. I wanted to do some further research on the company and the CEO, so I decided to search him up on Google, and it left me utterly shocked.

The first thing that came up about this guy was a FOX  article on him facing charges for utilizing illegal hacks to remove online complaints about his company. With this, I went back to my email, and completely disregarded that email. There was no way I was going to work for someone like that.

Luckily, I received another email two days later from a start up marketing and consulting firm. This place looked a lot more promising than the previous one, as they provided an organized and complete PDF, showcasing what they do and the different remote positions that the interns would provide. Instead of holding an online interview, they had about 15 questions in that email to respond to. I answered the questions thoughtfully, and hoped for the best.

A few days later, I received an email from them saying that they received a lot of applications, and that their payroll was limited to only a few interns. However, they still offered me an unpaid position and I was happy about it. I wouldn’t be getting paid, but I would be getting that valuable “experience” that these future job recruiters look for. With that, I filled out their google form that asked basic questions like which two months I would like to work, and my preferred role.

This seemed very promising to me, as I would have something to look forward to in the summer after the grueling remote spring quarter. 

In mid-May, they sent me another email talking about how they would be sending me an orientation packet soon with more specific information. Also, they informed me that it would be from June 15 to August 23. I was starting to get excited, as I imagined getting to meet and network with other college students, and ultimately getting to learn more about the marketing industry. 

On June 11, I took my last two finals for spring quarter, and I still had not received an orientation packet or anything. In previous days, I tried reaching out by emailing them but was not getting any emails back. It even got to the point where I called the CEO’s cell phone that he provided on June 15, the supposed day it was supposed to start. No one picked up, and I left a voicemail. I never heard back. 

This situation was very strange to me, as this place really did not appear fake. I even messaged other people that were supposed to be interning for them on LinkedIn and they were in the same boat as me: they never received any information back either. 

Not much else I could do at this point, and I was on the verge of giving up getting any experience this summer. Even feeling helpless, I kept staying updated on LinkedIn and looked at more opportunities.

By early July, another marketing firm had contacted me. They were interested, and set up a Zoom meeting, where I had to dress business casual. The first morning interview I had, it was very brief and they really just asked me basic questions. After it was over, they told me that they were holding multiple interviews that day, so they would notify me later if I was selected for the second round of interviews. I ended up getting invited to the second round, and proceeded to have another interview the next morning.

My initial thought was that this place seemed very legit, due to the way they professionally conducted interviews and had this interview process. I logged onto zoom that morning, and the interviewer got more depth about the job expectations and what I would be doing. Their in-depth description kind of tripped me up, as it seemed like more of a sales-type job. The role was listed under marketing, but when the interviewer told me that they walk around Walmart stores and get me people to buy different services/products, I knew something was skeptical. Also, the pay was commission based and not an hourly salary. Meaning, the amount I would make would depend on how much I sold.

Doesn’t give you too much of that “internship” feeling does it?

So the interview ended and I researched more on the internet to find more information. I couldn’t find anything on the company itself since it was new, so I looked up the CEO. Startled, I actually found two PDF’s of court cases, where he was accused of being involved in a Multi-level marketing scheme in his previous company’s, and not paying his employees the right amount. I called the interviewer back after they offered me a role, and told him that I would be seeking other opportunities and would decline the offer

Aftermath: Well, here I am writing this post. It’s August, and although I’m bummed that I wasn’t able to get an internship this summer, it taught me a few lessons. First, it showed me how not everything is portrayed how it seems to be, and that we must remain #woke. Further, using online resources like Google to search up things about the company goes to show how utilizing the internet for the right reasons can give you more detail about certain things. Also, maybe this is a sign that marketing is not for me? I was looking forward to seeing what it was about this year but I obviously wasn’t able to. So, I wouldn’t say that I give up on pursuing or anything, but maybe it’s a chance for me to explore other career paths. 

Maybe this failed experience will aid me in understanding that I must go through many obstacles and trials before ultimately reaching the top. I do believe that things happen for a reason, so there could possibly be a hidden reason behind this. As a 19 year old with a long way to go, I hope to look back at this experience when I’m older and remember the process I endured. 

About the author

Michael Kim is a rising sophomore at University of California, Santa Barbara with a current major in communication. He is new to blogging and plans to dive deep into various topics, especially ones that cross his mind.

For any inquiries, he may be emailed at michaelkim2019@gmail.com

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