The Workplace

My internship is unpaid. How can I still benefit?

By Colleen Sabatino, The Intern Coach

Many internships don’t offer pay or credit, but you’ve still made a solid investment in your career future. Here are some ways that you can maximize your internship experience:

  • Networking:  The most effective way to find other opportunities for yourself is networking, which is acknowledged as the primary method to get a job or an internship. A July 20 article in The New York Times says that dozens of young people with connections to Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s friends, business associates and government appointees have been awarded internships at City Hall. You’ve probably started a good network for yourself at your internship. Make a list of everyone at your internship and find out if he/she can suggest any other internship possibilities. Keep in contact with people through a social media outlet. Remember, you’re part of their network, too.
  • Next internship:  Your experience at your summer internship is a great building block for your next internship. Now that you have mastered the art of being a professional in a work setting you’re ready to advance up the ladder. With  excellent recommendations in hand, you can apply for more advanced assignments at more prestigious firms. A potential internship supervisor knows that you’re a proven quantity and will “fit in” nicely to another internship. Also, your past summer internship may have opened your eyes to the fact that you don’t really like that field or industry. Now you have time to change your major and explore other fields before it’s too late in your academic career.
  • Course paper or class project:  Every summer internship provides endless resources for a course paper or class project. And you’ve already done the research if you use your material from one of your internship assignments. You can incorporate case studies or company reports (unless they’re confidential) to support your paper. Or if you are a member of a class team that is instructed to collaborate with a company on a project, you could ask your former internship company to fill that requirement. Another way in which you can tap back into your internship is to ask someone at your internship to be a speaker for a campus event. You’ll soon see that an unpaid, no-credit internship is a priceless experience.