The conversation around paid and unpaid internships during college and beyond is one that is discussed quite often. Many believe that it is a great way for the intern to gain experience and knowledge about a certain industry, while others believe that the intern’s time is wasted and work is often distributed unfairly.
As a student who has worked both as a paid intern and an unpaid intern, I am here to give you my thoughts.
I believe that working as a paid intern is obviously great, but it is basically the same as someone who has a normal job. As expected, most who are working through their paid internship (or job) love what they do, they just get paid for it — sounds perfect, right?
On the other hand, those who work as unpaid interns show true dedication, passion and interest in their craft. They show that they will spend countless hours working on something that they are not getting paid for because they truly want a spot in that industry. When applying for long-term positions down the road, employers will find this an admirable feature.
Ultimately, being an unpaid intern demonstrates patience. In addition, any kind of work experience in your chosen industry provides opportunities to network with companies and individuals within the field, to the benefit of your future career.
For example, I worked as an unpaid intern at a comedy record label in Frankfort, Kentucky. I ran errands, did audio and video production, managed social media accounts, and much more. I did it because I loved it and I want to work in the entertainment industry.
It is often very difficult to find your way in the entertainment industry. Across the world, comedians spend years working for little to no pay doing their stand-up routines; actors and actresses will do any gig possible for little to no pay; musicians and dancers will perform for next to nothing. They all do this for two reasons: to gain exposure in the field and because it is their dream.
Although I understand that we are almost all broke young adults and money is scarce, I recommend working with your employer about flexible hours so you can have a side job that pays (your employers are nicer than you think, and mine allowed me to do this).
All in all, if one has enough drive and dedication to achieve their aspirations, then the answer to the question of whether to take an unpaid internship should be an easy yes.