Many college graduates are faced with the choice of an unpaid internship or a paying job that is outside of their area of interest. If you are facing such a choice, there are a few important considerations to keep in mind. There are definitely benefits to working in the industry of your choice, and of course, it is always important to pursue a paying career path. The best course of action is to secure a meaningful internship, unpaid or otherwise, while still pursuing your degree. As we all know, however, life does not always unfold in the most ideal fashion, and if you find yourself considering an unpaid internship post-graduation these helpful hints can shed some light on the value of accepting such a position.
The main motivation in choosing a job after graduation is often one that is based on your need for money. If you are fortunate enough to not need a paying job the minute you graduate then your decision will be much easier. If working for free is not a viable long-term possibility for you, try angling for a summer internship that while unpaid will give you some much-needed experience to add to your resume. Another option is to take the internship part-time and supplement that position with one that is paid.
The main benefit of an internship is the added experience and networking opportunities that the position offers. At the very least, you will gain an impactful reference from decision makers within your desired field. If you are offered an internship that could likely develop into a paid position it does make sense to forego payment for a defined period of time and see if it can potentially become your ideal job. If this is your situation, be certain to define a review period after which a decision will be made regarding converting the internship to a paid position.
Negotiating a trial period at the beginning of the internship will serve you well, when you are ready to be paid or move on. Many times having the internship experience to add to your resume is sufficient to open many doors as you begin your career. Do not let yourself be taken advantage of, and make sure that you have an end date in mind before accepting any unpaid position. It is also helpful to investigate the track record of the company to learn how likely they are to convert internships into paid positions.
All in all, your own personal circumstances will determine whether or not an unpaid internship is the right move for the start of your career. If it is your field of interest and there is a strong likelihood that it will convert to a paid position, it is likely worthwhile to explore the opportunity. Unpaid internships can lead to invaluable connections and references even if a paid job does not materialize. Look at the big picture to determine if the experience is worth the lost income.