Are unpaid internships worth the hassle?

By Alyssa Gautieri
Features Editor

Prior to the start of my unpaid internship, I admit that I was a bit pessimistic.

Each time I have to dig into my savings to go food shopping or fill up my gas tank, my heart breaks a little. But, I have found that my unpaid internship has been much more rewarding than I could have ever expected.

Statistically, most internships turn into something more, but beside the obvious fact that an internship of any sort may lead to future full-time employment or that it looks great on a résumé, I’ve found there is a benefit specific to unpaid internships — less pressure.

I don’t mean to say that just because you’re not getting paid means you can slack off, but I do mean that not being paid relieves some of the anxieties that may come with a paid internship or an entry-level job.

I felt much more comfortable asking to try out different jobs because I was working for free. I’m not wasting the company’s money if I take my time on an assignment or try something new that I’m not great at. In reality, anything I did was helpful to my employer because all effort on my part was ultimately saving the valuable time of my higher ups.

Based on interviews that I have done for both paid and unpaid internships, I have noticed that unpaid internships tend to have less rigid job descriptions. This is why I think that unpaid internships open you up to more opportunities. An unpaid intern has more flexibility because, let’s face it, you’re not being paid.

How I see it is that paid internships come with more responsibility while unpaid internships are more focused on the education of the intern. Of course, unpaid internships come with responsibilities, but there is also a different sense of freedom. Most employers understand that because they aren’t paying you, they should let you explore your options in order for you to get the most out of your experience.

I also found that there’s a different sense of satisfaction that comes from loving an unpaid internship. I didn’t love going into the office twice a week because I was desperate for a paycheck, but because I genuinely liked being there. I think an unpaid internship is a great way to unbiasedly test the waters of your future career. If you love working for free, just imagine how much you’ll love working for a salary.

Of course, if you have a shot at a paid internship, go for it. I am all for being paid for your work, but students shouldn’t diss working for free because it can be equally, if not more, rewarding. Let’s face it, paid internships are hard to come by, so keep an open mind.

1 Comment on Are unpaid internships worth the hassle?

  1. As an employer who brings in a few interns throughout the year, I am surprised that there is such a thing as an unpaid internship. I am not sure if that is even actually legal.

    We pay our interns and we expect them to do real work. I have had 3 TCNJ students in our somewhat new marketing internship program and they have had the opportunity to write press releases, web content, brochures, and presentations. They have done valuable market research, attended industry conferences, and even reached out to the marketplace. Interns are not expected to be perfect or know how to do everything, and a lot of direction and coaching is done, but our interns gain valuable experience that they can reference when looking for a job in the future.

    For an unpaid internship to be legal, the intern basically has to provide no actual value to the company. What is the point in that? I guess if that is all you can find, then some experience would be useful for your resume, but my if I do a good job of managing an intern, then they will provide value to my company, and they will be paid for doing so.

    So, if you are looking for an internship this summer and live near Princeton and are interested in working about 30 hours a week in marketing doing the above and more, reach out to me. Two of your fellow students will finish up their stint next week here at Navitas to begin finals and I am looking for another intern to work in marketing over the summer.

    I can be reached at Patrick.mullen@navitas.net

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