As you progress through college, you will begin to notice more and more of your classmates pursuing internships in cities all over the United States and even the world. While this sounds like a luxurious experience, it can often be anything but. Companies world-wide are aware that they can hire college students as unpaid interns. Instead of being paid monetarily, these students are “paid” with the knowledge they gain through their experience, and must receive college credit to make the free labor legal. Interns usually must put in more hours than other paid employees, and do work that is far less rewarding.
While most people would question why anyone would sign up to work in this kind of environment for no pay, internships have become an essential stepping stone for anyone trying to enter a professional field after college. Not only are they expected, but oftentimes they are required. It’s not all torture, though, when pursuing this type of job. There are a ton of positive aspects of these internships as well. The connections made can be invaluable, but it depends on the effort you put forth in your work. It is easy as an intern to be a small fish in a big pond, but if you make yourself heard, you can meet and impress some of the most important people in your industry. Once you have garnered these contacts, it is vital to keep in touch with them as you approach graduation. In such a competitive job market, if a position is available and it comes down to you versus an opponent who did not intern for the company, it is likely you would be the favorable candidate.
In addition to meeting some fantastic people in your industry, internships can often be parlayed into other opportunities. If you have multiple impressive internships on your resume, an employer will be more likely to hire you over someone who has little to no experience whatsoever. Taking an unpaid internship shows you are willing to sacrifice compensation to pursue something you are truly passionate about, and that you care about excelling in your field. Also, employers will often be sympathetic to financial needs. Many will allow interns to work three or four days a week, which would allow for a second job that pays. Though you will be busy, you will also be building out your resume even further.
In the end, choosing to pursue an unpaid internship is a decision you have to make based on your wants, needs, and abilities. If not, there are other ways to prove yourself. You can get involved on campus in various organizations pertaining to your interests, and pursue leadership roles that will impress employers. Unfortunately, though, because internships have become such an integral part of college education, many employers will expect to see at least one on your resume; so, if there is a way to pursue one, it will undoubtedly pay off in the long run.