Don’t Take That Unpaid Internship

We’ve all heard the saying “time is money,” so why doesn’t that apply when it comes to wasting yours? 

Internships are valuable experiences that many college students choose to partake in so they can open new doors for themselves and learn in a hands-on manner. Having completed an internship during my undergraduate career and having just applied for another, I know that they’re of utmost importance when it comes to building a professional resume. That said, there’s a key difference – a super important one, at that – between the internship I completed back then and the one I’m hoping to get today – compensation.

Although the experience is great, I’d probably never voluntarily apply to complete another unpaid internship. It was one of the most financially difficult times of my life and it wasn’t, by any means, a pleasant way to live. I was stressed out all the time, I didn’t know how much my next check was going to be, and the organization I interned with did not have its shit together when it came to teaching me new concepts.

Here are a few reasons you should ditch that unpaid internship offer and apply for a paid one instead. And yes, they do exist:

  1. A Lack of Time 
    – Typically, any internship requires a minimum commitment of three days per week. While that might not seem like a lot of time, when it comes to a work/life balance, it really, really is. When you’re working for free three days a week and you only have four other days to work for the money you need to pay your rent and bills, life sucks. I know that’s not the most eloquent way to say this but there simply aren’t enough hours in the week to work for free, work for pay, and spend significant quality time with both family and friends. And, if you somehow manage to make time for all of that, I assure you it’ll be stressful rather than enjoyable.
  2. A Telling Sign of the Company 
    – Most well-known, corporate organizations offer unpaid internships which is kind of ridiculous when you consider how much they make in a single year. Organizations like major marketing agencies, television stations, and various popular radio stations don’t offer compensation, even though they’re able to afford it. Seeing “unpaid” puts me off from most companies in question and it makes me wonder if they even compensate their actual employees well. While correlation is not causation, it sure strikes me as a red flag when a billion-dollar company can’t afford to give $10.00 an hour to its interns.
  3. A Lack of Money
    – As I said before, time is money. When you’re lacking time, you’re probably lacking money as well. While all internships usually take up a few days’ worth of time per week, it’s better to be compensated, even a low amount, for the time you spend there working than it is to go home with nothing but a hole in your pocket, owing your roommate money for the gas you used to get there. That’s  one significant reason why paid internships are clearly the better option here.Bonus points if they pay you as well as they pay their employees.
  4. A Lack of Satisfaction
    – Some people are satisfied with their experiences at the end of an unpaid internship. I am not one of those people and I’m sure there are at least a handful of you who aren’t either. At the end of my unpaid internship, all I felt was relief. Finally. That’s all I could think to myself when I thought back on all the time, money, and experiences I missed out on because I chose an unpaid internship over a paid one. Had I chosen a paid internship, at least I could’ve put something tangible in my wallet at the end of a long week.

So, basically, you should gain the experience you need but don’t do it at the cost of your livelihood. There are multiple online platforms you can use to find paid internships, including, but not limited to, Craigslist, Indeed, and LinkedIn.

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4 thoughts on “Don’t Take That Unpaid Internship

  1. Totally agree! I graduated many years ago and there were few companies offering paid interships. I did both paid and unpaid interships and there is a big difference, they are very selective and you have to commit either way so, look for a paid one and good luck!

  2. Great points Jackie! In this EXPENSIVE world we live in, the notion of an unpaid internship should become obsolete! While our generation does seem to value the ideas that all experiences come at a cost and money is not everything, it simply isn’t feasible to “spend” precious time and not be compensated in some monetary way! I love your point about just the fact that a business/organization will offer unpaid internships says a lot about their culture and values. How can anyone gain experience and build towards a career path if they can’t afford to get the experience in the first place?? We need our society to emphasize the importance of passing on hands on knowledge to motivated young people, especially students! Unpaid internships likely will deter people from pursuing that line of work more than anything else!!

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