There it is the perfect internship. A brilliant company, wonderful coworkers, opportunities abound. This is it … until you read the print at the bottom.
You groan at the thought of more ramen noodles and threaten to forget the listing altogether. But wait, before you do, there are some things you should consider.
Here are six reasons why you should take the unpaid internship.
We all know the word spoken again and again in interviews, boardrooms, and resume building classes. Say it with me: experience.
Currently, the job market is so competitive that even entry level positions will require some true work experience in the field. Recent college graduates will complain relentlessly about said prerequisites, but they probably weren’t the ones that took the unpaid internship.
Instead, they may have sought out paid positions, which is fine, money is important after all, but in the long run, maybe not so smart. Experience will speak volumes over any other qualification: grades, extracurricular activities, and community service. Guaranteed. Telling your future employer that you have hands-on, real-life time and work put into your future career sets you miles ahead of everyone else.
Much like real work experience can boost your chances of employment, so can a name. Having a large, relevant company name printed on your resume will seem eye-catching to any interviewer. Take the time at your internship to know the people around you. Many of my jobs came from ties to friends, family, and even other coworkers.
Many job listings go unposted to public databases because they are filled by word of mouth beforehand. Even if the company you’re interning at isn’t looking to hire, it’s more than likely that people within that company have lots of ties to similar ones. Partner corporations keep tabs on the other’s happenings, so if they’re aware of an up-and-coming prospect like yourself, you already have an in.
- Evaluating interest
Unpaid internships are great because unlike a full-time job you rely on to pay for your food and rent, you have free range for evaluating its importance. It is likely that this is your first time truly experiencing your future field. Perhaps you thought it to be different than what it really is. An unpaid internship is a great way to test the waters before you fully commit to said career.
It’s also a great way to experiment with other departments. You may still like what you’re doing, but soon find yourself more keen on the marketing department than you thought earlier. This can help you hone your interests. If you’re lucky and find something you really enjoy about your internship, submerse yourself in it. Ask questions. Get involved. I’m sure your bosses won’t mind.
- Expanding skill-sets
As an intern, you’ll likely jump from department to department. You could spend way more time doing things you never thought you would. This allows you to shadow jobs you never knew about or had interest in before.
Even if these jobs don’t develop into something you love, applying your small new skill-sets in many places can be just as useful. Make use of the tech department to fix a computer bug. Figure out how to change an ink cartridge. Learn to write a killer project proposal. These little things will add to your expanding repertoire of hirable traits. Nobody likes a one trick pony.
While making new friends might not be your primary motivation, it certainly can be a plus. You’ll be spending lots of time at your internship and therefore with other interns: fresh, young, like-minded individuals as yourself. Don’t see them only as competition, but as comrades.
They will understand all your complaints, all your struggles, and will dutifully rant with you in the break-room about the office troll. The friends you make here will be instrumental in your future career as well. Eventually ending up at other similar companies, these friends can help make important connections for you later on. They could even last a lifetime.
By investment, I don’t just mean stocks. An unpaid internship is an investment in your future. It sounds cheesy, but it’s true. Every young person starts at the bottom and works their way up; an unpaid internship will get you a head start on that climb.
Thinking about the future may be mildly terrifying and the idea of choosing this job for the next 10 years frightening, but the beauty of an unpaid internship is discovering yourself. This is the time to figure out what you like and what you want to be. So go on, give up the minimum-wage job and take the unpaid internship. You won’t regret it in the end.
Sure, internships may be daunting. Unpaid ones even more. There may be long hours and hectic days, but the future you with a killer career in a few years will thank you. The future isn’t something to dream about, it’s something to grab now.
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