Everybody knows the best part of a paid internship. You get money for your time as well as valuable experience. Everybody loves making money; it helps you pay for stuff. Yet occasionally you come across an opportunity for an internship that doesn’t compensate you monetarily. The position turns out to be a great opportunity, something you have always wanted to do, the company is great, and there is even a chance for the position to become a full time job. But it doesn’t pay you a cent. Is it worth it?
Pros: You will obviously get valuable experience out of this position; otherwise you wouldn’t be thinking about it. If the internship is in a field you are planning on pursuing, and if you have done your research on the job and the company, it should be safe to assume that the experience gained will be invaluable to helping you find a job in the future. Good programs will train and teach you about the industry’s ins-and-outs. Stick it out, put in a lot of time and effort, and the employer will remember you the next time you send them your resume or ask for a professional reference.
Cons: Other than the obvious, sometimes these unpaid internships can be a waste of time. You might find that the experience is not what you were hoping for, that the industry is not what you were expecting, or that the company is just looking for free labor and has no intention of even attempting to place you somewhere in their family. The good thing is that these problems usually reveal themselves early on, so you can explore a couple of options. A great option is to open a dialogue with your boss/supervisor about the lack of meeting expectations and what could be done to improve them. This way you get what you want and it gives you a chance to impress the powers-that-be. Nothing is keeping you from quitting, but the only person who comes out a loser is yourself. Instead, try to turn it into a win-win for everybody involved.
Unpaid internships are not for everybody. You have to do your research and you have to be absolutely sure that a job in that particular industry is what you want. Otherwise what’s the point?
Questions? Ideas? Follow me on twitter @ChrisComella or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org