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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!

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. 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?



2 thoughts on “Are You A Recent Grad Debating an Unpaid Internship?

  1. From what I understand, the norms of internships vary by country and industry. I don’t think they are inherently exploitative – I got my first industry job through one. It’s up to companies to give interns as many opportunities as possible and not take advantage of them, and up to interns to put their best interests first and not settle for a bum internship.

    If they don’t work out, that’s fine too. I’ve known of people walk off internships very early on because they quickly realised it wasn’t the right fit.

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