So you’ve got one year, maybe two years, left before you graduate from college, enter the “real world” and start competing with the currently over-saturated pool of job seekers. How do you prove to employers that you are more than a slightly above average G.P.A and a college degree? Get internships! Just make sure they are paid internships.
Throughout my search for internships I have seen about a 50-50 spread among listings for paid internships and unpaid internships. Accepting an unpaid internship may seem like a good idea to those simply trying to develop a bit of experience, but the end result will likely be a job you hate. I’m not suggesting monetary gains should be the only force driving one’s ambition, but it definitely should be kept in mind when deciding how to spend one’s time.
The overall quality of the internship may be lower if it is an unpaid position, considering the company has no real investment in the intern. The unpaid intern will work with other unpaid interns contributing to the projects developed by the intern manager, never really experiencing what it is like to be under the same pressure and deadlines as employees.
The paid intern will work directly on company projects in order to gain real experience. They may even have an older mentor within the company, who can offer extremely constructive advice to the intern. There is an incentive to the intern to put forth their best work, while allowing for the intern’s basic needs to be taken care of. Internships sometimes offer a monthly or weekly stipend for food and rent, which is just as good as getting a paycheck. The paid internships also set the intern up for stronger future bargaining power when negotiating one’s first salaried career.
There are more reasons to avoid unpaid internships, but I’ve kept it simple for now. However, I realize it is not always an easy task to deny the opportunity to gain vital “first career” experience, especially with the current competitiveness among job seekers relatively high. If an unpaid internship is all that is available, try to negotiate a monthly stipend to subsidize living expenses while working for free. I don’t think it is an unreasonable request, and most employers will at least consider the proposal if worded properly.
The following sites are my favorites and can be used to find active listings for internships, as well as job listings. Of course there is always the tried and true method of targeting specific companies and trying to impress them into offering a paid internship.