When Unpaid Internships Pay Off

If you’re having a hard time getting your first internship due to lack of work experience, don’t panic. The solution: working for free! I know you’re thinking, “Wow, what a great idea!” …Not. Who seriously enjoys unpaid labor?! You knew as a kid that doing chores for free was a bunch of BS when you found out Johnny’s mom gave him an allowance. So why should you have to do it now? A few reasons.

First off, the economy. Companies don’t have extra room in their budgets to pay interns. And the ones that do have already filled the position with someone who’s had multiple internships. Which brings me to the second reason, competition. The reality of it is, you must have internship experience before you begin your job search. Employers don’t care if it’s paid or unpaid, they want to know that you can bring something unique to their organization. So throw out the attitude that you could never do an unpaid internship or you will always be looking for a job. Thirdly, unpaid internships can really pay off. Mine provided me with a ridiculous amount of experience, which I talked about in interviews. This resulted in another internship, except this time, a PAID one. Many unpaid interns receive full-time, paid positions upon their graduation.

If money is the issue, coordinate with an advisor to earn college credit for your unpaid internship. Talk with your employer about your availability before your start date. Make sure you have enough time to balance school and/or a part-time job.

An unpaid internship isn’t forever, and the experience will benefit you in the long run.

Pt. Betsie Lighthouse
Unpaid Intern Rachelle exploring Frankfort's Pt. Betsie Lighthouse for The Nature Conservancy

A short clip I filmed and edited for a project during my awesome, unpaid internship.

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