For college students and recent college grads, every penny counts. Often with tens of thousands of dollars in student debt hanging overhead, or the prospect of living with Mom and Dad looming, many 20-somethings discount the very real benefits of an unpaid internship. Instead, they settle for a paying, but unrelated job, which has little or no correlation to their education or ultimate career goals.
Choosing to embark on an unpaid internship can be a leap of faith. But, the benefits are real. And, the experience gained through an unpaid internship can far surpass the instant gratification of the meager paycheck earned at a temporary job. An internship within your field of study can help you gain experience, connections, and possibly even a “real” job!
What the experts say about unpaid internships
According to Ross Perlin, author of Intern Nation: How to Earn Nothing and Learn Little in the Brave New Economy, estimates have shown that, “of the million or so students doing internships, half aren’t being paid for their hard work. And it’s not only students, but college graduates who are also accepting unpaid internships, according to U.S. News & World Report.”
So, why commit to an unpaid internship? Here are five important benefits that students gain from an internship:
- Resume Booster. If the most challenging job you’ve held by the time you’ve graduated college is working the counter of local ice cream shop, you’re in trouble. Potential employers want to see how grads handle real world problems, most notably within their field of study. How do they work as part of a team? How innovative can they be when searching for solutions? An unpaid internship provides relevant, real world experience.
- Job Generator. In highly competitive fields, an internship may be the only chance a student has to get “a foot in the door.” And, a recent study of university graduates shows that students who completed an internship were 13% more likely to find a full-time job upon graduating! Plus, an unpaid internship is often a dress rehearsal of sorts and can lead to a job offer upon completion.
- Networking, Networking, Networking. Even if a job offer isn’t extended at the conclusion of an internship, the networking value of interacting with professionals in a specific field of student cannot be overstated. Professional references, unlike character references, must be earned. And, those gained from a professional internship can prove invaluable for many years.
- College Credit. According to Internships.com, “An internship with credit towards graduation combines academic coursework with relevant work experience. Some colleges don’t give credits for any internships or only to juniors and seniors. Check with your professor or department chair to find out if your college accepts academic credit.” And, with college credits valued anywhere from $250/credit hour for public, in-state university to $1000+ per credit hour for a private four-year college, your internship just “earned” some serious cash.
- Professional Etiquette 101. This is your opportunity to witness the realities of the workplace environment, first-hand. From appropriate dress code, to working as a team, to understanding your role and accepting authority, to proper office, phone and email behavior. These are lessons you simply won’t learn in class.
How to find the right internship
Of course, not all internships (paid or unpaid) are created equally. So, we’ve compiled some resources to get you started:
Finding just the right one can be a daunting task – but well worth the effort!
About Back to Basics Learning Dynamics, Inc. in Wilmington, Delaware
Back to Basics provides over 125 wide-ranging educational and related services including 1-on-1 tutoring in over 60 subjects, translating and interpreting in over 20 languages, speech and occupational therapists, behavior and reading specialists, paraprofessionals, ELL and computer lab teachers, RTI support and homebound services, psycho-educational testing, 1-on-1 test prep for the SAT, PSAT, SAT II, ACT, GRE, PRAXIS, GED, and HSEE, professional development, summer school, original credit and credit recovery. In addition, we operate Delaware’s only Department of Education-approved, 1-on-1 K-12 Private School in Wilmington, Delaware.