About a week ago, Allison Morris of OnlineCollegeCourses.com passed an infographic along to me. I thought it would be pretty neat to write about, since it includes valid statistics about unpaid internships.
Internships were not required at my college, but because I wanted a job related to publishing or editing in some way, I figured an internship would be my best bet to get me some experience for a job. (Editing and publishing are “trade” occupations, which means they can’t really be learned from courses in school, but from real-world experience.)
I got an internship and it was unpaid (but for academic credit). Paid internships are very hard to come by, and if you are lucky enough to find one, it will likely only pay a small stipend or minimum wage. Of course, payment all depends on your field or industry, too. For the publishing fields, you will be very lucky to make just minimum wage.
However, contrary to the statistics in the following graphic, my unpaid internship was very beneficial to me. I never had to do menial tasks like answer the phone, get coffee, make copies, send faxes, etc. I wrote and edited articles, which were posted online and in print. I sometimes took pictures to go along with those articles (although those times were few and far between because I’m an awful photographer). I learned quite a lot from my unpaid internship experience, mainly that I absolutely did not want to become a journalist.
But the articles I wrote during my internship became part of my portfolio that I showed around to employers when I went on interviews after graduation. I got useful feedback on my work during my internship that helped me to become a better writer.
After graduation, I got another internship that started off unpaid, but later became a paid, part-time position. This internship was also beneficial; I learned that I loved editing, I didn’t have to do any menial work, and I gained some network contacts.
Because I had good experiences with unpaid internships, I would argue that they can be beneficial. However, as with any other job, be sure you do your research before saying yes to an unpaid internship. Research the company. Talk to people who’ve had internships at that company before. Talk to your professors/career counselors at college; they can really help you weed out the good companies from the sketchy ones.
And, as with everything in life, an internship is what you make it. You can choose to learn from your experience, or you can slack off and be lazy. If you feel like all you’re doing in your internship is fetching coffee and making copies, speak up! Let your employer know that you’re there to learn.
DISCLAIMER: The following infographic is not mine. It is property of OnlineCollegeCourses.com and was used on my blog with permission.