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Oftentimes, the word ‘unpaid’ is like a bright red streetlight stopping you in your job-hunting tracks. We all want to be paid, right? The idea behind an unpaid internship is that you are doing them a favor by working for free, and they are doing you a favor by teaching you the ropes and giving you real-world experience in your field of choice. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work that way. Some companies take advantage of free labor and you might come away having learned how to run envelopes through a postage machine rather than the techniques of good marketing. Here are a few considerations about unpaid internships.

• School credit. Your school might be affiliated with companies offering internship experience. Often, these companies will ‘pay’ you with school credit. If the internship is organized through your school, it is usually legitimate, meaning you will probably learn a thing or two. Unfortunately, these are irrelevant to non-students.

• Experience. If a company requires an unpaid intern to have experience with specific programs, it may be a bad sign. Do they want to teach an entry-level person valuable knowledge or do they want someone to do hard work for free?

• Out of pocket expenses. Are you spending $15 on gas and bridge toll to get to your unpaid internship? Not making money is hard enough. Don’t lose the money you already have.

• Potential for employment. On the more positive side, some unpaid internships can lead to full-time, paid positions. An internship is your chance to prove yourself and demonstrate that your skills can make a positive impact. If they like what they see and an opportunity arises, you could be the first person they consider.

The job market is tough these days – any type of work might seem tempting to get your foot in the door. But it’s important to make sure you’re not being taken advantage of. Unpaid internships must have an educational element. Don’t simply work for free.

by sophie

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