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How to Navigate Your Unpaid Internship

By: Mariah Rogers
Jun 26, 2020 • 3 min read

Is It Worth It?

You landed a summer internship, good for you! If you have been offered an internship you are excited about, it can be hard to pass up the opportunity, even if it is unpaid. Besides, the experience is more valuable than money, right? It may seem hard to justify putting in three months of work for no monetary compensation, but internships are fabulous additions to your resume, and you are sure to learn a lot. However, it’s best to be realistic and understand how to navigate your spending habits and summer plans without a consistent income. Here is how to navigate your unpaid internship.

Check for Unpaid Internship Scholarships

If the company you are directly working under is not willing to compensate you, check out scholarship opportunities to offset some living costs. You will likely be using some kind of transportation, whether it be a train, bus, or car to commute to your internship every day. Plus, the meals are expensive! Before heading into your summer with the assumption you will be making no money, scope out some possible scholarships. If you go to a college or university, check with the career center and see if they are offering any scholarships to students. If not, check this website out here.

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Examine Alternatives to Your Unpaid Internship

If you are excited about your internship offer and feel as though it is the right fit for you, definitely don’t pass up this opportunity, even if it’s unpaid. The benefits will likely outweigh the risks. Examine alternatives in your daily life to properly budget yourself and save some money this summer. Instead of driving a car and paying for gas weekly, take a train or bus. Find carpool opportunities with other interns at the same company. Remember to pack a lunch! Bringing your own food will be much more affordable than purchasing daily. Every little bit helps.

Get a Part-Time Job

Some internships offer the option of only working part-time. This is not such a bad idea, especially if it’s unpaid and you want to work a part-time job to make extra money during the summer. Communicate with your internship supervisor about possible hours per week and see if you can land a part-time job when you’re not working. This can be a great way to meet friends, gain new skills, and earn some well-deserved cash.

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Consider Before Accepting

Consider if an unpaid internship will be worth it in the long run for you and your career goals. If you can’t work out a form of monetary compensation with your possible internship, consider if the experience would be worth it to you. To do this, you must define what is essential. Can you see yourself working for this company after graduation? Do they offer a learning experience you wouldn’t be able to get anywhere else? Does the internship just “feel” right? If you answered yes to these questions, go for it! However, don’t feel defeated if your values are more aligned with working for money. There are endless internship opportunities available, and you’re bound to find the right fit for you.

Enjoy Your Free Time

There is no doubt that you will be busy this summer! Especially if you are balancing an internship and a part-time job. To make the most out of the summer months, make sure to enjoy your free time. Making time for yourself is key to avoiding burnout and staying motivated about your career goals.

Would an unpaid internship experience be worth it to you? Give us your opinion!