By Natalie Garlene
College upperclassmen everywhere generally face the same question as a new semester approaches: How can they score an internship?
The reality is, internships today are in higher demand than ever— more people are getting college degrees, and as a result, the job market is now extremely competitive. So competitive, in fact, that even internships are hard to get.
Depending on the industry you wish to break into, an unpaid internship may be the only option.
Is working for no pay worth it?
Some people would argue that unpaid internships are not ethical, let alone not worth it.
Would you intern for no pay if you got to experience a reputable company?
Not everyone can afford an unpaid internship, but for those who can, reading on may be beneficial.
This past summer, I accepted an internship with an event planning company in Los Angeles. Although it was my dream internship, it was unpaid. Now, I knew this before I applied for the position, so the absence of a salary didn’t come as a surprise. Still, living in L.A. for an entire summer was rough on my bank account.
With that said, my experience last summer was nothing short of incredible. My schedule was flexible. I assisted full-time employees with many of their tasks. My specific assignments included searching for fashion week sponsors, finding venues for various events and sending out pitch emails. I now have a much greater appreciation for film, fashion and event planning.
I initially applied for about 30 internships in the Los Angeles area, and received offers from a few. All were unpaid. The entertainment industry is notorious for being difficult to break into, and the internships for the industry’s respective companies are no exception. So, if you want the experience and the connections necessary to get your foot in the door, be prepared to expend a lot of time, energy and money.
In an article published by National Public Radio, author Ross Perlin gives the run-down on intern statistics. “An estimated quarter or third of all internships are unpaid, and many more are low-paid as well.” In his latest book, “Intern Nation: How to Earn Nothing and Learn Little in the Brave New Economy,” Perlin gives his readers a checklist to look at when sending in intern applications.
If they’re looking for someone who has lots of experience or someone who can earn class credit, Perlin says, chances are high that they won’t pay you. “However, if the company has an established intern-training program, has a designated intern coordinator and details the skills interns will learn, the chances are that intern will have a good experience regardless of no pay,” he says.
In my humble opinion, interning for no pay can be totally and completely worth it. It’s just relative. Maybe you got an offer from your dream production house or from your favorite broadcast station. In cases like these, not receiving pay is trivial. Chances are high that you’ll learn a lot, and even in the rare case you don’t, you’ll meet people who can open doors for you, or who can be a good reference for future employers.
My advice? Educate yourself. Before you send in an application, find out all of the details of the internship. Learn whether it is a paid or unpaid internship. Most companies are required to tell you right off the bat if interns receive pay. From there, you’ll likely find out the desired hours and task expectations of interns.