If you’re a current college student (especially a PR student) then you’ve definitely heard the debate about unpaid internships. It’s been all over the news especially after the “Black Swan” scandal. Are they legal? How can employers get away with it? The debate never ends and court cases trying to fight unpaid internships keep popping up. Unpaid Internships are one of the top things that is searched on Google:
Although I agree that in some instances unpaid internships should definitely be illegal, especially if you’re doing nothing but grunt work and getting coffee or running errands, there are positive benefits as well. I am currently in an unpaid internship and although it sucks to be broke, I CHOSE to take this on because having experience at an agency was better than just sitting at home or working a summer job that had nothing to do with PR.
With that being said here are three positive benefits to unpaid internships:
1. Unpaid experience is better than no experience. Having three unpaid internships on your resume is better than having zero internships at all. An internship is about the learning experience, shadowing and mentoring. Whether your internship is paid or not you are still learning something valuable and adding to your resume and portfolio.
2. Unpaid internships can be more hands-on. Often time’s internships are unpaid because you are working at a smaller company that can’t afford to pay their interns. This means that you may be able to get more hands-on experience and participation since there is a smaller staff.
3. It shows that you’re serious. We all have to start at the bottom and although it sucks, everyone has to do it. If an employer notices that you did one or two unpaid internships and worked really hard, then they are going to see that you really care about this field and that you are dedicated.
If you are planning to take an unpaid internship here is some advice:
- Remember that it is YOUR choice to take on an unpaid internship so don’t complain about not getting paid if you knew that going in. If you really need money then get a part-time job on the side or apply for scholarships while you’re interning.
- Research the company before you decide to take the unpaid internship. If you see or hear that their interns only get coffee and file papers then that’s probably not where you want to intern. But if people are talking about how much experience they got, that’s a different story.
- Although an internship is unpaid you still might get a small stipend. Most unpaid internships will still give you a travel stipend or reimburse you for driving to an event or maybe a lunch stipend. My internship gives us a small stipend each month for traveling so this might be something to look into!
Overall, remember that internships are a learning experience and they might not always be great, but in the end you come out with greater knowledge and an expanded skill set.
To read more on surviving unpaid internships check out this Fox Business story: http://www.foxbusiness.com/personal-finance/2013/07/05/how-students-can-survive-unpaid-internship/ .
-Cidnye Weimer is a junior studying strategic communications with a minor in business administration and a Global Leadership Certificate. Check her out at @CidnyeWeimer.