I have a question about internships. How long should internships last, realistically? Do employers look critically upon lengthy internships where a person is not hired by the organization or does not get higher-level experience over time?
Here is the context: I have been interning with an organization for eight months now. I have applied for one of their job openings as a general planner, but there is no guarantee that I will be chosen for this position for various reasons. I'm applying at other places but I've been able to stay on and keep working as an intern here because I've made myself useful and they have more work that I can do. I just got my Master's degree in City Planning in May, and this is my primary "planning" experience thus far, so I'm taking as much as I can get right now. The internship itself has no defined parameters for when it may end, so if there is still work to do, I can stay. However, this is the problem I have with it. Without an end date it seems like I can get stuck doing work, getting experience, but with little pay and no benefits, without it appreciating into a full-time position (assuming my application is turned down). I am already aware of at least two other people who have been interning long-term (we're talking four years) and I have no desire to end up in a situation like that. If they decide not to hire me, I am thinking ahead to how long I would want to continue with this internship. I am thinking that a year is probably long enough, after which I will take my chances elsewhere or expand my job searching to opportunities beyond simply planning.
What do you think? Is there such a thing as an internship that runs on so long that it is a negative on your resume? Am I simply being paranoid?