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Most people would probably cringe at the thought of working for free, right? However, when it comes to unpaid internships, you may want to think again. Completing an unpaid internship can be a great way to build your professional reputation and your wallet.
If you’re just starting out in a career or switching professions, you will most likely find yourself struggling with the usual dilemma of needing work experience to get a job, but needing the job to get the work experience. Unpaid internships can provide an easy solution for you.
College students should start by contacting the career services office of their school. Most colleges and universities help students find internships. You can also reach out to professors and staff in your specific program area to see what opportunities may be available to you.
Another great place to find internships is on job search sites, such as MyJobHelper.com Simply type in the search term ‘internship’ and narrow the search by geographical area, recency of posting, or other criteria. You should find some good opportunities quickly.
Whether you spend one month or several in an unpaid internship, you will leave with some work experience you can list on your resume to help you find a job.
Another good reason to consider an unpaid internship is networking. As you begin and grow your professional reputation, you want to get acquainted with others in your field. These individuals can help you find jobs, serve as references for you, and direct you to other opportunities related to your career. Many professionals enjoy mentoring those new to the field, and they can continue to be asset throughout your career.
There is a false assumption that once the job training or degree is completed, there’s nothing more to do. However, continued professional development is required in most professions. Taking an unpaid internship can set you on a healthy path of lifelong learning. Some unpaid internships offer college credit, certificates of completion, badges, Continuing Education Units (CEUs) and other such documentation of career development that you can use as evidence of your talents and skills. Then you can add these to your resume or professional portfolio.
Another benefit of taking an unpaid internship is career exploration. You may think you know everything there is to know about your future career. An unpaid internship can show you how accurate your perception is or isn’t. Chances are good that there are some unknown aspects to your profession. You also may discover that you are good at something related to your career or that there are some field specializations you hadn’t thought of. An unpaid internship can help guide you to the career path that’s right for you.
Return on Investment
The term ‘unpaid’ is one such misunderstood career option. Rather than think that you’re working for free, think of the return on investment (ROI). An internship will make you more marketable. You will apply for jobs with increased work experience, a network of supporters, and document-able professional development. Your willingness to pay your dues and be a life-long learner will also give prospective employers a favorable impression of you as a dedicated, go-getter who can work well with others. These sorts of “soft skills” may be what actually lands you a job offer.
The bottom line: Unpaid internships actually pay quite well in the long run not only financially, but also in terms of having a long and rewarding career.