Q. How can I explain to students that unpaid internships can be priceless because they are investing in their own futures?

June 1, 2010 at 11:48 am | Posted in Intern Compensation | Leave a comment
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by the Intern Coach

A. This is a hot topic in the news right now, so it’s important to address it with your students immediately, whether they are currently doing internships or looking for fall internships. Consider sending an informative and reassuring email out to all your students involved in the internship process, explaining why unpaid internships can be priceless. You might want to send them a link to the Wall Street Journal article, May 18, 2010, “Creating Internships Out of Thin Air,” to validate your explanation. Here are several reasons you can give as to why unpaid internships are excellent investments: 

  • You receive letters of recommendation, which will help you get future internships, which may be paid. Count on having multiple internships, each one better than the previous one.
  • You may earn school credit, which will free up space in your academic program to take other courses (or more internships) or to concentrate on those time-intensive classes with long labs.
  • You could follow the advice of Colleen Sabatino, career coach at internships.com, who was quoted in the above Wall Street Journal article. She suggests that you ask the company about any options for pay, such as a stipend or even a part-time job at minimum wage. You may have to cut back your hours if you have to work in another job.
  • You could ask the Career Center if it has any funding available or knows of any government-related monies for internships. New opportunities come up all the time, so check federal and state sites often.
  • You also have career-related experience to strengthen your resume. Remember, it’s your resume that gets you the all-important interview. After a few unpaid internships, you can drop your high-school entries and add impressive professional experience, which will get you the interview.  Investments usually take a while to pay off, so start investing in yourself now.

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