Making the Most of an Unpaid Internship

The following post is by Angelita Williams, who writes for

In a job market that is increasingly competitive, gaining additional experience can be key when it comes time to look for a job. Internships can be a great way to do just that, letting young grads and students see what the working world will be like before they enter it themselves. Unfortunately, some of the internships that offer the best experience don’t come with much, if any, of a paycheck. That doesn’t mean they can’t pay off in the long run, but they will require some sacrifices to make them work in the present. If you’re debating whether or not to apply for an unpaid internship as a student or a grad, don’t be afraid to make the leap– it can be well worth it. Here are some tips to help ensure you’ll get the most out of every unpaid hour you put into your internship.

Look for perks. You may not be getting paid but that doesn’t mean your job shouldn’t come with any perks. Check with HR to see if you can get in on subsidized housing, help with commuting costs, free meals, or the use of company equipment. If your employer can’t help, see if your college offers an assistance programs for unpaid interns. If you don’t ask,  you’ll never know, so don’t be afraid to take the first steps.

Network, network, network. Since you’re going to be working among people who are already in your field, take the opportunity to get to know as many of them as possible. They may be able to write you recommendations serve as references or even help you find a job after your internship. Remember, who you know can count as much as experience and education when it comes to finding work.

Ask questions. If there’s something you don’t know or want to know more about don’t just stay ignorant. Use your internship as a chance to really learn and expand your knowledge about the field. You might not be getting paid in money, but you can take away some valuable educational experiences instead.

Get college credit. A great many unpaid internship programs come with one big benefit: college credit for time spent working. Don’t miss out on the hours of credit you could be gaining– check with you adviser to see if there are programs in place that can help you work towards your degree while working away your summer at the same time.

Put your best foot forward. If you’re complaining, tired or disheveled at your internship position, you’re not making much of a case for your abilities as a future employee. Treat your position as you would a real job and always be highly professional. It could pay off when it comes time to find work.

Ideally, all internships would be paid positions, offering experience along with the financial support students need, but the reality is that more and more internships are unpaid positions. With some hard work and determination, you can turn your internship experience into a springboard to the career you want and an incredibly valuable asset to your resume. In time, you may come to see those unpaid hours as one of the best career investments you ever made.

This guest post is contributed by Angelita Williams, who writes on the topics of online college courses.  She welcomes your comments at her email Id: angelita.williams7