To put it simply: Taking an unpaid internship could make your career. 

Deciding whether or not to take an unpaid internship can be confusing. You find yourself asking questions such as, “Do I deserve to be paid?” “Am I able to do this financially?” “Should I look for an internship that pays?”

After completing paid, unpaid, part-time, full-time, three-week and summer internships I would almost consider myself a professional intern. Here’s what I have learned about unpaid internships: you will not walk away from the internship without anything to show for it. 

In fact, my unpaid internship kick-started my career.

The company may not pay you – but they teach you. In the real world, time is money. If an organization will take the time to teach you their craft in exchange for your work, that’s not a bad trade.

I’ll be the first to admit, I too was weary of unpaid internships at first. Read my 2013 article on unpaid internships.

Since writing the article, I have had a change of heart. I’m a firm believer in accepting an unpaid internship – as long as it’s the right opportunity.

Taking an Unpaid Internship Changed My Career

I started working as an unpaid intern at KCCI News Channel 8 in August. I too considered the three things you should consider before taking an unpaid internship. The job was located near my college campus so I could work during the school year. The station is full of talented professionals. I knew that I would not have to look far to find someone to learn from at KCCI. Before starting at KCCI, I had an extensive resume but it was lacking local news experience so the job presented me an opportuity to round out my resume. I also had a strong desire to learn from and work with the professionals at KCCI.

From August until the end of October I came in after class, on my day off and stayed late. After giving myself a few weeks to observe the professionals at KCCI, I jumped right in. I started shadowing reporters, helping the assignment editor follow-up on news tips and writing tiny pieces of the script for the producer. Eventually I started voicing and editing my own news packages together. I never thought about the fact that I wasn’t being paid because I was learning skills that you cannot buy. Spending time learning from and emulating the work of news professionals with decades of experience was my compensation.

So when a part-time reporting position opened up at the end of October my boss decided to consider me for the job.

Six months later, I am still working as a part-time, on-air reporter for KCCI. I have a paying job in my career field that I love and it is because I decided to take an unpaid internship. Beyond that, I decided that it was worth it to work my hardest even if I was not being paid. Surely, I gained something much greater than a Paycheck during my time as an intern at KCCI.

Drake Relays 2014

In the past, my Drake Relays credentials have been for the student telecast. It’s crazy to see how much things can change in a matter of months.