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.