March 05, 2021

By Rene Garzona

Since #unpaidinternships is trending, I want to provide advice if you’re starting your career and are considering an unpaid #internship today.

In college I was introduced with the idea of having a shot at working somewhere I could gain job skills for my career in exchange for college credit. I sought out a non-paid internship at a major radio station in Los Angeles at the time. I was asked if I could earn college credits in exchange of working 10-20 hours a week for free for two months. I thought it was a good exchange, once I got in I worked hard and proved I was valuable to the company. I was offered an actual job by the end of my first week. My willingness to serve for free literally catapulted my career path. I was hooked and loved the marketing side of radio. Later in my career, I became a manager and made a goal to allow others an opportunity to learn through internships. Keep in mind that unpaid internships where a normal thing back then. If you do seek an unpaid internship here is what I would do:

 Do your research, make sure the company you are seeking an opportunity with doesn't take advantage of interns. Google is your best friend for this, dig and find any reviews that can help you decide if the company is a fit.

 Get clear expectations of the role. I’ve seen many leaders toss internships to coordinators that don’t know how to manage or help interns as they come in. Ask whoever is hiring you what the goals are for this internship and the steps to accomplish these goals. You’d be surprised how many leaders in key roles have no goals and clear expectations. Doing this will help you avoid many headaches.

  •  Learn from those willing to help you while interning. This is a time where you should be networking and meeting people. You never know who you’ll end up working with or working for one day. This however doesn’t give you the pass to only network while you are supposed to be working on your projects. Be wise, do both but balance it out.
  •  Serve with an optimistic attitude, work hard, always ask what else can I do?
  •  The fact I even have to say this says a lot of where we are, do not be stuck to your phone while working. Unless the gig requires you to do so such as social media roles.
  •  This time is for you to gain real world skills, I know many interns that have accomplished their internships and got hired right after their #unpaidinterships were done.
  • So many interns forget to do this, once your internship is done make sure to ask for the job.

I truly believe doing an unpaid internship for the right company is incredibly valuable. However, there are companies that do take advantage so be wise and seek as much information as possible before making the decision. I also agree that it's worth the investment for companies to start paying interns. Just as an intern needs to do their research so do companies in researching ways to create fruitful environments where interns can gain some real skills.

About Author:

Rene Garzona - Creative | Connector | Storyteller | Curator



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