Career Advice

4 Things to Do if You Can’t Afford to Take an Unpaid Internship

posted on August 14, 2018 | by Michele Lando

4 Things to Do if You Can’t Afford to Take an Unpaid Internship

When I was in college, I ended up working 50+ hours a week at an unpaid internship. And while I learned a lot, I was completely and utterly broke. On top of that, I was mad that I was doing some of the same work as paid employees. Honestly, I felt like I was being taken advantage of.

Between loans and expensive tuition, it seems like everyone is broke in college. So how on earth are you supposed to be able to afford to take an unpaid internship? While internships have become an unwritten requirement for college students because so many entry level jobs require previous work experience, it’s possible to gain experience without giving up a salary. Let me explain!

Take Advantage Of Free Resources

In a society where everything costs a lot, there are many free resources at our fingertips that seem to be completely underutilized. You may have to work in a restaurant to make money, but that doesn’t stop you from learning about your desired industry and building skills that may be learned through an internship.

A great example of this is social media marketing (SMM). If you don’t have the luxury of working as an intern, take advantage of free resources and articles to learn the tools you might learn through an internship. There are a lot of great articles on how to build content and utilize SMM platforms.

Look For Jobs That Can Be Tied To Your Desired Career

Working through college instead of taking an internship doesn’t mean you can’t find a job that relates to your career. This takes a bit of research, but there are a lot of job sites that are geared toward specific careers, making it easy for you to apply to jobs that would boost your resume (i.e. for tech and IT jobs).

If there doesn’t seem to be a job site dedicated to the career of your dreams, you’ll have to get creative. The number one issue people have when writing a resume is that they don’t show how the jobs and skills they have relate to the job their applying for. A lot of times, you have be creative in how you highlight the skills you’ve obtained so that they correlate with the job you’re applying to.

For instance, if you want to be in journalism but aren’t able to afford taking an internship at a media powerhouse, try to find paying jobs in places like publishing companies, universities, or even a library. This might sound odd, but most places have some sort of a newsletter or blog which needs to be written. If you can observe or get involved with it, you can utilize it on your resume as journalism experience. Even if you’re working as an administrative assistant at a company that interests you/aligns with your career goals, you’ll be able to observe and soak up a lot of information that will help you later.

Don’t Psych Yourself Out

We’ve all been there. Don’t compare yourself to others, because all it will do is psych you out. The most important thing is to remember that you’re making a huge accomplishment. You’re also taking on a lot of responsibility by working and going to school. This not only shows that you are motivated, but it shows your strength and reliability. When in doubt, remember that employers want to hire someone who can work hard and get things done. Regardless of how many internships someone has, if they aren’t someone who is reliable and works hard to meet goals and deadlines, they aren’t worth hiring.

When writing your resume, make sure you highlight your achievements in each job. Even if your job is unrelated, highlight what you’ve accomplished there. If you’re working in a restaurant, highlight the fact that you consistently provide exceptional customer service. You also handle customer disputes and maintain a professional demeanor at all times. Many people have had to work through school to pay the bills, so most hiring managers understand and respect this.

Reach Out To Your Professors

If you’re in a class that you love, or one you view to be beneficial to your career, get involved. Talk to the professor and explain that you’re really interested in the subject. Express that you’d love to get involved in any projects or opportunities that come up. Most professors value enthusiasm, and some have paid positions available for students who inquire about it. If you’re lucky enough to secure one of those paid positions, you’ll get the best of both worlds (money and experience). But even if you simply get involved in class projects as a group leader, or extra curricular activities, that gives you industry-related experience to highlight on your resume.

The more industry related experience you can highlight on your resume, the better. So take advantage of what’s in front of you! This goes back to the first section about utilizing free resources. Colleges offer a lot of resources in career development and education. Reach out and see what they have to offer!

Did you take an unpaid internship? Or an internship in general?