An internship is typically done later in your college career, or sometimes after you graduate. The object of the position is to give you real world experience that you can add to your resume as you seek a paid job in the future. Some internships offer a paycheck or stipend, but a good majority of them are unpaid. So, the question becomes, should you take an unpaid internship?
Pros of an Unpaid Internship
The primary benefit of taking an unpaid internship is the valuable job experience you’ll gain. However, there are a couple of other reasons why it might not be a bad idea to accept one if it comes along. If you haven’t graduated from college yet, you can earn some college credit while gaining work experience at the same time. You also get the chance to network with people in your field, which gives you contacts when you’re ready for a paid job. Sometimes, an unpaid internship comes with other perks, rather than a regular paycheck. This could be transportation, tickets to events, free food and other benefits.
Cons of an Unpaid Internship
Besides the obvious drawback of working for no money, there are some other things to think about if you’re considering an unpaid internship. Some experts in the field say that it’s unethical to ask someone to work without financial compensation, and you may agree with that. Some people, especially those in college, cannot afford or don’t have the time to take an unpaid position. For businesses, relying on unpaid interns limits the diversity of the employees, which cuts back on the benefits for students. Additionally, financial experts caution that unpaid internships are contributing to the student debt crisis and are not helping the economy. Finally, studies show that individuals who have completed a paid internship are more employable than those who only have an unpaid internship under their belt.
How to Choose the Right Internship
The truth is that most internships continue to be unpaid, so if you’ve decided to take one, it’s a good idea to do some research so you can find the one that’s the right fit for you. There are some things to consider here. One of important thing to think about is the expectations that go along with the unpaid internship. Get a good idea of what you will be required to do and how much time you’ll have to commit. If you’re working the internship for college credit, be sure you understand what you’re getting out of it, in terms of your college education and degree.
Another important thing to think about is the time commitment. If you’re still a student, it’s probably unfeasible to work a full-time internship when you have a full course load and schoolwork to attend to. If you’ve graduated, you will probably need to do some type of job to earn an income and may not be able to commit to a full-time unpaid internship. It’s important to balance your time so that you can get the most out of the internship.
How the internship is going to benefit you is another aspect that bears some thought. If you’re going to commit the time to the endeavor, make sure it’s something you’re going to get something out of, now and in the future.
Think about how the unpaid internship will contribute to your future career. Is it going to further your experience and knowledge in the field? Is it going to open doors to a well-paid position in the future. If so, it might be worth for a bit without a steady paycheck, as the payoff will come soon.
Finally, consider the company’s track record for hiring interns. If the entity consistently offers paid positions to its interns, it might make sense to spend some time working for free. If not, it might be a better idea to lend your time and skills to another firm.
Ultimately, your goal with an internship, whether paid or not, is to gain experience and knowledge that will serve you well as you graduate from college and transition into the workforce. If you can swing working without pay, in terms of your bills and social life, by all means, use an unpaid internship as a stepping stone into your career. If not, there’s bound to be a paid opportunity out there. The most important thing to do is to be sure that whichever one you choose is one that leverages your degree or furthers your career. You can always take a part-time job in your field, which offers both a paycheck and the experience you need to climb the ladder.