Unpaid student internships may seem like a waste of time. After all, why bother working for free when you can get a paying job?
However, a good unpaid internship can have a hugely positive impact on your life both during and after school.
Here are five reasons why unpaid internships are worth the time and trouble.
1. Get a Foot in the Door
An unpaid internship is the easiest way to get your foot in the door of any industry. If you’re lucky, you’ll get real hands-on experience and be able to learn all about the field from professionals who have loads of experience.
This is also a great way to explore potential career options. A temporary internship will give you a taste of what life in a certain job might be like, without committing you to anything permanent –- sort of like a free sample. (And who doesn’t love those?)
2. Pump up Your Resume
Many people are saying that a bachelor’s degree is the new high school diploma, as in everyone has one. Meaning? Scoring a cushy post-grad job with just an undergrad degree may not be as easy as you’d hope.
Unpaid internships can help set your entry-level post-grad resume apart from the pack. Having relevant work experience on your resume –- even if it’s in the form of an unpaid student internship –- can play a huge factor in getting the job after graduation.
3. Build a Network
In addition to looking great on your resume, unpaid internships are a huge help in making contacts that will help you find work down the line. A single (unpaid) magazine internship I did during undergrad not only gave me my first hands-on journalism experience, it helped me score work after school was over.
Thanks to that one internship, I already had significant experience which helped me score my first journalism job after school. What’s more, I got a great reference letter from the editor-in-chief of the magazine I interned for and, to this day, she helps me out by providing me with contacts and recommending me for jobs.
4. Get College Credit
If the idea of unpaid student internships is still totally difficult to stomach, be aware that you may be able to count your internship as college credit, making the benefits a little more immediately tangible. In fact, some internships are only given to college students, and you must be able to receive college credit in order to qualify for the position.
Most schools offer credit for relevant internships. Find out about your school’s policy and talk to a departmental adviser about which types of internships can be counted for credit toward your degree.
5. Have Fun (Seriously!)
Yeah, working for free in an unpaid student internship — especially over summer break — seems like the furthest thing from fun. However internships can offer amazing experiences, as you’ll have the chance to learn new skills and simply do things you’ve never done before.
My magazine internship was full-time, sort of scary at times and totally frustrating at others -– and it was all gratis. But I loved it. I was given responsibilities that I never thought I would have, like writing little blurbs for the magazine. Before the gig was up, I even got to write a longer article and see my name in print –- which made the whole summer of work totally worth it.
If you find an internship in a field you’re interested in, these kinds of perks can make the blood, sweat and tears (kidding!) of an unpaid internship well worth the work. There are so many types of internships available — you can even do internships abroad! You’re sure to find something you want to do.