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Student Blogger: Pros and Cons of Unpaid Internships

January 20, 2011

taryn sidney6 Student Blogger: Pros and Cons of Unpaid Internships

Taryn Sidney

As a poor college student you may be wondering if there are any upsides to having an unpaid internship. I mean, working at a supermarket job won’t make you the next Carrie Bradshaw, but let’s be honest:  very few paid internships will let you live like Carrie Bradshaw either. For me, weighing the options of an unpaid internship was resolved using my favorite tactic: a  Pros and Cons list.

So what are the Pros of having an awesome unpaid internship?

  • Experience:  First and most importantly, an internship gives you opportunities and experiences you may not get anywhere else. Having an internship gives you a way to get experience and your foot in the door.
  • Test-drive a career:  I have an internship with CBS 3 Springfield where I work as a writer and editor for the material that goes on the air. I get to see all of the chaos and work that goes into putting together a news show—something I would never have known otherwise!  An internship gives you the chance to see if this is the type of career that is right for you.
  • Opens doors: An internship also gives you better opportunities in the future. Having CBS 3 Springfield on my resume could open doors that I never imagined, whether because of the experience, the name, or the connections.
  • Connections:  As an intern, you have the chance to meet outstanding people who have loads of great advice.  For me, getting to hang out with the reporters and producers was helpful because they shared their success stories and as well as constructive criticism on how I could improve.

Even though there are some definite positives to having an internship there sure are negatives too. So what are the Cons of an unpaid internship?

  • Lots of work:  In all honesty I can say that one thing that bothers me, especially when it comes to internships in journalism, is there is a lot of work and no pay. I have to constantly remind myself that what I am doing will help me in the end.
  • Other expenses:  You may have to dish out more money than you have in order to gain experience. I dream of a fabulous NYC summer internship but I will probably have to pay for housing,transportation,food, etc… but I won’t be making any money to actually afford it. Most of the internships that I’m looking into are full-time therefore leaving me no time to make any money.  What to do?

As you’re weighing your options, remind yourself that this is a personal decision—there’s no right choice. I made a Pros and Cons list to weight my options before I did my internship, and as hard as the cons were to swallow, I overlooked them because all I knew the experience was invaluable.

Taryn is one of our great student bloggers and she’s actively following in the footsteps of one of her heros, Katie Couric.  See Taryn’s other heroes, as well as the rest of our student bloggers here.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Heidi Faith June 14, 2013 at 8:52 pm

I think another important “con” to the unpaid internship game is the general social controversy surrounding them. Your parents will think you're wasting your time and basically participating in slave labor. Your less-ambitious friends won't want to talk to you about your #internproblems because they won't be able to relate to them.

I'm a newly graduated young professional who did four (yes, FOUR) unpaid internships during my college career. While I DID gain experience and valuable connections, I can't say they're helping me out during the job interview process. Want to know which question I get asked the most at interviews?:

“So, why didn't any of your internships hire you as a full-time employee now that you're graduated?”

It's honestly a really tough question- and it makes you seriously consider whether or not all that unpaid work was worth your time. I find myself asking… was I good enough? Why didn't they hire me? Why have I been bending over backwards for the past four years to ensure a future, when all that unpaid work may have not ensured anything at all?”

Just something to think about. Sorry for playing devil's advocate.

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