- Must Do's -
the free conundrum. should you take an unpaid internship?
by fergus mellon
I have friends who say that once they have a degree (either under graduate or post-graduate) that you should not work for free as you are under valuing yourself. While it is a personal choice and I do not want to start a battle here, my advice is that if you don't currently have paid employment take an unpaid internship.
If you have no job, as an ESP (Early Stage Professional) there is no opportunity cost of taking the unpaid Internship.
I took unpaid Internships during my college years and valued the experience I got from them: I was even lucky enough to get a news story printed in a car magazine that I worked for and received credit in their masthead. In addition when my wife was between jobs in the non-profit sector she took on a 3 day per week volunteer job and benefited from it. Oh and she only did about 3 weeks work before another non-profit came along and offered her a full time position partly because they were impressed with the volunteer work she was doing.
I 100% understand that this can mean that companies take advantage of Early Stage Professionals (and a whole class of people: those who have just graduated College). If this is the case it is just another example of where the social compact between Capital and Labor has broken down: you (the Labor) pay for your College education and in return employers (the Capital) pay for your time and skills. Internships should not replace full time jobs, but instead should be a way for ESPs to gain valuable experience in the workplace either during or after college.
If you begin to feel you are being taken advantage of by the "free internship" route, just stop! There should be a value exchange (you get experience, the company gets free labor) and if it is unbalanced and not fair to you, stop doing it. There are other things to do with your time (see section below on Staying Motivated During Your Job Search), so don't feel an Internship is what you must do. Instead recognize that despite you having a great degree, as you are untested in the world of work a strong Internship can help you show employers that you are not just bright (as most College graduates are!) but also someone who can succeed in the workplace.
Next Section: Informational Interviews
Visiting these pages because you've been to a number of interviews and not yet got a job? Don't worry. Or if you're worrying know that it's common for a job search to take months and not days. Here are some related columns on keeping motivated and dealing with the stress of it all:
Keeping Positive During Your Job Search
Dealing With Rejection and Feedback
Overwhelmed? Try a Mental Refresh