Finding Appreciation in the Little Things as an Unpaid Intern

The following is a guest post from my best friend who interns at an entertainment-related company. 

The life of an intern doesn’t have to be as depressing as TV shows make it look. Working for free for a few months has its set backs, but it can lead to some wonderful experience and opportunities. I’m currently in a transitional phase in my life and am interning at a company I love. As an intern here are some things I have come to appreciate:

These are some strange things I have received at work.

  • Thank-yous – 2 simple words that go a long way.
  • A coffee – As a poor intern, you have no idea how grateful I am when someone buys me a caffeinated drink.
  • Being asked for an opinion – I get excited when I am shown the latest new thing and get asked “what do you think?”. It shows I am trusted enough to give valuable feedback.
  • Invitations to events – I am fortunate enough to work for a company where there are many events to attend. I’m able to go to most of them whenever I wish. At events, you’re representing the company (explicitly stated or not) and there is a certain level of trust your co-workers have in you.
  • Lunch – It’s a rare but wonderful occurrence to be bought lunch. However, I appreciate even being invited out to lunch with the other employees where you are treated like a friend and join in their conversations.
  • Being introduced as an assistant – I’m not really a fan of the word “intern”. It sounds temporary. I have noticed that recently that, I’ve been introduced to clients (some who are very important) as their “assistant”. There’s a level of confidence they have in you when you’re not referred to as “the intern”. Being an intern comes with the preconception that you’re going to make tons of mistakes.
  • Random swag – Whether it is company pens or random odds and ends from clients, free stuff is well, FREE STUFF! My boss gave me some stuff when he was cleaning out some things in his office. A few things were quite hilarious, and I used them to decorate my desk. I received some things that were rare and valuable as well. Sometimes it may be junk that your boss is about to throw out, but if they ask if you want them you’re at least being considered.
  • Challenges – I love when I am constantly challenged with new things. Don’t sigh at a hard task, it means they have faith in you. If after a few months, you are still doing the same mundane tasks, you might want to ask why.

All these things might not happen at all for most interns, but they are things that have made me a very happy intern at the company I work for. It’s important to feel happy and appreciated as an intern if not you might want to ask yourself, “Why am I still interning?”. If you happen to be to be an employer that hires interns, let them know you value their work. You don’t need to do most of  the things I listed, a simple “thank you” is enough to brighten their day and work even harder for you.

Thanks once again for sending this to me. It’s really nice to see how the little things can make interning worthwhile.

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Are You A Recent Grad Debating an Unpaid Internship?

After 4+ years of higher education, the last thing you want to do is take a job that offers you no money to pay down your forthcoming student loan payments!

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You don’t want to be making coffee all day – so make sure that you find the right internship!

However, unpaid internships are becoming more and more popular among companies from the music industry, advertising, and even in the environmental sector. Are these sources of work-related experience worth it?

In my opinion, it really comes down to two things: the individual’s situation and the time commitment. If you’re a recent graduate debating getting into the world of unpaid internships, you might try asking yourself the following questions:

  • Can you afford taking on unpaid employment? Are you able to make the financial sacrifices to stay afloat? Can you stay with your parents or other family members for the duration of your internship? Or will you have to plunge deeper into debt? Take some time to really consider how unpaid work will impact your financial status.
  • Have you done you research about the company? Do you know it’s aims and objectives? Who works there and what they do? Can you see yourself fitting in there? If you’re not interested in what the company has to offer, look for another opportunity that better suits you.
  • Are you passionate about the company and the experience? Does this opportunity have the potential to lead to others? Will you have the chance to develop new skills and network? Will it really enhance your resume/acquired skills? If not, then why on earth would you take it on in the first place?!
  • Will the time commitment allow you to pursue other opportunities? Can you take on a part-time job while interning? Is the time commitment too long/short? You want to make sure that the opportunity will provide you with skills, but isn’t just using recent grads as a cheap source of labour.
  • How much do you want this internship? Is this just a passing phase, or are you going to be excited to get up for work each morning? What do you want to take away from the experience, and how will you make this happen? If this internship is in your field, you want to be at your best every day in order to make a great impression!
I hope that these questions are a good starting point! Please feel free to add others in the comments.

Want more information about internships? Check out these articles!

Lifehack talks about making a list of things you’d like to learn from your internship – what do you want to learn?

This post on Twentieshacker talks about ways to rock an internship – or really any form of entry-level employment.

Forbes.com describes an internship as a “10-12 week job interview” – I really enjoyed their take on how to turn an internship into your job.

Are you an unpaid intern? Or have you experienced unpaid internships in the past? How have these experiences helped you?

Elle