Unpaid Internships: Invest In Yourself


Unpaid. The dreaded word so many college students, and some post-grads, hate to see next to any job opportunity they’re vying for. In their defense, it sort of goes against every American ideal we have: I give you my work and services and in exchange you give me minimum wage to buy twist off wine and snacks from your office vending machine. While anyone who says this does have a point, they’re missing one of the key points to an internship: investing in yourself. Sure, you feel awful going to work tow days a week feeling that you’re making negative money, but a lot of these companies offer part time positions so that you can also work. Does that sound hard? Yeah. But, it’s a lot easier to do all that work now while you’re young than not being settled when you’re pushing thirty. Here’s a list of reasons you should be happy for these positions, mixed with some tips to help you keep a budget while doing it:

1. These companies don’t need you.

Yes, you heard me correct. I mean, while it’s super nice to have someone to make sure the conference rooms looks great at all times while tracking every time their company is hashtagged—it’s not needed. It’s a mere convenience for them, while an opportunity of a lifetime for you. Make your money in terms of connections, portfolio work, and cups and cups (and cups) of free coffee. I mean, you made the pot, might as well have one.

2. You get back what you give.

Now, I’m not saying that a waitressing job or a barista gig isn’t worthwhile—those are great ways to make money with flexible hours. But what I am saying is that you can do those jobs while also giving eight hours a day to a company in your desired field 2-3 times a week. At my university, I’m lucky enough to get paid to work in a media environment while also doing an external internship in the entertainment industry. But, even if that was the case—you should find a way to turn ‘free time’ into ‘paid time’. (See what I did there?)

3. These internships don’t have to cost you.

The joy of getting a “Congrats!” e-mail quickly turns into the panic of dollar signs flashing around your mind—with work appropriate trips to J.Crew, transportation fees, and ways to snack while behind your desk start to pile up the $$$. Take a breath. Sweaters are always work appropriate, for the most part. So you’re fine. And join the #BlackComfyPants movement of 2015, because just cause they’re stretchy doesn’t make them unprofessional. Even if you do need to make a trip, buy some staples that you can have for years and re-wear multiple times to the office. This isn’t fashion week, it’s fluorescent lighting. Additionally, pack your lunch!! This not only helps you eat healthy, but it doesn’t break the bank. If you’re in a city, a normal lunch can cost anywhere from 5-10 dollars. Pass. Making your own food gives you a fun routine the night before, a fun array of your favorite foods, and an Instagram to show off your skills—talk about a #trifecta.

4. You’ll gain professional self-confidence.

Before I stated interning, I pretty much felt I was worthless. Not in real life, but in my professional life. “Why should a company care about me?” I would wonder, until one place took a chance and I stated to get my business feet wet and made me feel much better down the line for other interviews of ventures. This is a lesson in general for starting off unpaid; whether you’re submitting writing for free to practice your trait while building your voice or shadowing an employer to see if a job is for you. And with that…

5. It’s a test run.

The beauty of an unpaid trial is that there is minimal paperwork or investment into your financial life. So you work for three months in a business you realize that you hate, wouldn’t you rather know what while you’re still testing things out and not right when you moved to a new city, and signed a new lease with what you thought was your dream job? That’s the beauty of an internship! You get a chance to test the waters while also building up your personal stock. And while it may not sound like much on paper, that’s definitely worth something.