Job Seeker Blog - Spark Hire

Do Unpaid Internships Help Your Job Search?

Every college spring, my friends would start the desperate search for summer internships. There was a hunger in our bellies for that coveted internship which would add to our thin, hopefully getting thicker, college resumes. Unfortunately, many of these internships were unpaid. It seemed like it didn’t matter. As long as you had an internship, life was good, and you were on the fast track to post-collegiate success. New evidence, though, shows that all internships are not created equal.

The National Association of Colleges and Employers found that while 63.1% of college seniors who had at least one paid internship had at least one job offer waiting for them, only 37% of those with just unpaid internships had an offer awaiting them. That’s a very statistically significant difference and one to consider when looking at internships. The article offers no real conclusions as to what might cause the difference in job offers as GPA and major were not indicators, so it’s hard to tell how to rectify the situation.

There are positives, of course, to unpaid internships. For one of my own internships I designed and created a media guide for an international marathon–attracting people from as far away as Australia. That media guide has served as a great design example to add to my portfolio for job interviews. Paid or not, I can take my work, used by a reporter for the Washington Post, and show it to companies as an example of my skill. That’s not something I would have working a paid service job over the same period.

While I by no means wish to discourage job seekers from taking unpaid internships, the statistics do demonstrate some important trends to consider in your job search. If you’re a job seeker with only unpaid internships, find something tangible to present to potential employers that showed your worth during your internship. Internships create tremendous possibilities, paid or not, but studies have shown that paid internships offer increased benefits to job seekers.

Have you noticed a difference in paid internships vs. unpaid internships–besides in your bank account? Let us know below!

IMAGE: Courtesy of Flickr by bradleygee

Jen Schiller

Jen works as a Marketing Project Manager for a restaurant, a kitchen assistant for cooking classes, helps with database management, does some freelance writing, and more. She received her B.A. from the University of Maryland in Government & Politics in 2011. Currently, she resides in the Washington, D.C. area and is an avid sports fan.

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