Unpaid Internships

Unpaid internships are a great way to get experience in your field of study. They are also a good way to get a step ahead of other graduates.  Over the years, I have participated in several unpaid internships. Some were glorified grunt work positions. Others were great opportunities–I got to take pictures at the Kentucky Derby which were later published in an international magazine. I think unpaid internships are wonderful! However, not everybody has the means to work for free. I’ve had several friends pass up unpaid internships to wait tables. Can you really blame them? It’s darn near impossible to completely live off financial aid/student loans. Unfortunately, my friends will be at a disadvantage when it comes time to find a “big boy” job.

Unpaid Internship

Should I feel bad that I am able to take an unpaid internship?

I’ve been heckled for taking unpaid internships in the past,  “You are so spoiled because your parents pay for everything. You don’t even have to get paid for your work.” These ludicrous statements make me want to scream. I would never walk up to a person who is paying their own way through college and say, “Your parents are lazy bums because they don’t have enough money to help you through college.” It is just cruel, and in my opinion both of these statements hit below the belt. Yet people continue to belittle me for coming from a wealthy family; I don’t think it is something that should be held against me.  The reality is that I have worked consistently since I was 15 years old. My first job was at Subway and I spent an entire summer making sandwiches for thousands of people. I’ve had a healthy stream of part-time jobs since then and I don’t plan to stop working anytime in the future.

I have had  several unpaid internships while I have been in college.  I have worked for a photographer, a magazine and now a textbook company. Each internship has taught me something new and useful that I can take with me for the rest of my life. Why should I feel even a little guilty for taking the opportunity to get this experience? What good is a crappy minimum wage job that has absolutely no benefit for my future career? I can understand how some people may see the world of unpaid internships as an unfair advantage for students who are more fortunate. But I also think it is totally unfair that people are judged for taking advantage of the opportunities presented to them. If you’re able to, why wouldn’t you get the experience needed for your dream job?

Although I have been the subject of friends’ ridicule, I have never felt guilty for taking advantage of unpaid internships. While some of my classmates are graduating with no experience in their chosen field whatsoever;  I am able to graduate with REAL job experience. Whether my internships have paid off or not–it remains to be seen. I graduate in the fall and hope that my internships will give me the resume experience I need to get my dream job.



I’m reading Elementary Statistics