While I clearly remember the sting of missing out on the fun of pay day, I never felt that an unpaid internship wasn’t worth my time. Though there were certainly frustrating hours spent hunched over a copy machine, I completed the internships feeling grateful and empowered, and here’s why:
1. Internships are first and foremost a learning experience. Do you expect the company to pay you to be taught? Do you expect your college to pay you to learn?
2. Internships give you a well-rounded feel for the company. If it’s a feel you don’t like and choose to apply elsewhere in the future, it was certainly in the company’s best interest to withhold payment.
3. I didn’t let my value to the company be determined by a paycheck. I remained eager and hard-working throughout the experience. What I lost in monetary value was recuperated by an education that often translated well into other jobs, giving me an advantage over other interns.
4. Hard work doesn’t go unnoticed, even if you are not getting paid for it. Non-fiscal rewards often present themselves in the form of job offers or reference letters.
5. Networking. The more corporate figures you know and impress, the better.
6. Internships are a way for you to prove your loyalty to the company. Any company that’s worth working for will notice and respect this loyalty.
7. Resume padding. It sounds crass, but it’s true.
8. Companies withhold payment from internships because they can. This should tell you that your potential choice to deny an unpaid internship will not make any difference at all — your spot will immediately be filled by somebody else.
9. I’m appreciative by nature, and you should be too. Each and every unpaid task becomes easier when put in perspective. Other denied applicants would certainly not be complaining, were they in your shoes. There are also worse problems to have than an educational volunteer job.
10. You always have the right to quit. If you feel that your lack of payment is not made up for in other intangible ways, you are free to leave.
All these reasons point to the fact that unpaid internships are not only worthwhile, but for many people, necessary. Don’t miss out on an opportunity to advance your career just because you aren’t getting paid for it.
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