Should you take an unpaid internship after college?
There’s no denying the benefits of an internship – you’ll gain experience, develop skills, make connections and strengthen your resume. According to a My First Job Survey by Monster.com, completing an internship helped 44% people find their first job faster, 40% understand their industry better and 28% gain first-hand knowledge and experience for their chosen career.
So should you or shouldn’t you take an unpaid internship? Here are some facts to consider before deciding whether it’s the right move for you and how you can make the most of it:
1. Are you getting on-ground experience?
A good internship should offer you the opportunity to interact with people from your desired field, give you an idea of how the industry/sector functions and help you acquire valuable hands-on experience.
Make the most of it: Volunteer to help out with tasks that interest you. Don't forget to ask for referrals before you leave.
2. Will you learn new things?
The most important thing you take away from an internship is new knowledge, which includes learning how to fulfil tasks relevant to your desired career path. If you sign up for an unpaid one, ensure it’s teaching you relevant skills or assisting you in sharpening those you already possess. Before signing up, be sure to ask what your responsibilities will be. Make sure you don’t wind up just running errands for others.
Make the most of it: Seek opportunities to learn all that you can during your unpaid stint. The chance to work with new software or operating systems can help add new skills to your resume.
3. Does it offer networking opportunities?
Fresh out of college, you are hard up for connections in the work sphere. A paid internship puts you in close contact with people who could help advance your career – it could be your supervisor, other employees at the firm or other interns.
Make the most of it: It’s important to build on your network, so keep in touch with people – online and offline – for future opportunities. Check with former interns at the company where their experience took them. Does the company absorb the best interns? What would your next step be?
4. What are the perks?
Your internship may not be paid for, but companies often offer other incentives or perks to interns, including on-house breakfasts/lunches, free bus/metro passes, tickets/entry to events, fuel allowances or book stipends.
Make the most of it: Recce the office before joining to see what perks employees, old and new, get so you can negotiate some for yourself.
5. Can I afford to give up the money?
While internships provide great experience, they aren't realistic for a lot of graduates who need to pay their own expenses. So, if you’re in a situation where you have to finance your life, an unpaid internship after college might not be the right choice for you.
Make the most of it: If it's possible, consider balancing the internship with another part-time or freelance job that pays your bills.