Internship Insight: Being the Unpaid Intern

Internships are glamorous. They give us experience and show us what it’s like to be in the real world. It’s not a “Go get coffee” work force for us interns anymore. They want us to seriously learn something. Before anyone gets jealous or upset they got stuck working at Dunkin Donuts all summer, internships aren’t perfect either. They are hard work; long hours and some are painfully unpaid.

My internship is at a marketing and communications firm in Pittsburgh called Pipitone Group. I write press releases, blog posts, emails and do a lot of social media editorial calendars for clients. It’s definitely fun and every day is different. Sure, sometimes I get stuck with the filing work or tedious tasks but I am the intern still. Most days there’s tons of work to do and I feel like I’m actually important. Other days I scroll through the Facebook and BuzzFeed home pages enough to start wondering if the people around me are noticing I’m not doing anything. The hours are long and filled with hard work and meetings, but my biggest beef with my internship is that it is unpaid.

“I would never do that,” some of my friends tell me. “Why would you work for no pay?” Yes it’s crazy I know, and a lot of people wouldn’t agree with accepting an unpaid job opportunity, especially when the job is Monday through Thursday 9 to 5. But I couldn’t pass it up. I couldn’t say no to an internship where only two PR interns are accepted to help with the everyday tasks of a marketing firm. When I got the call that they wanted me, I was too excited to care about the money or anything else that could put a damper on my accomplishment.

And I have absolutely no regrets.

Sure, I miss getting those paychecks every other week from my summer job last year, but that was also at Jimmy John’s and the most experience I got out of that was how to make a Beach Club in a lettuce wrap without everything falling out while preparing it “freaky fast.”

I definitely upgraded and I’m really proud of myself. The money will take care of itself in the long run and there’s no reason to be worried about it right now.

I am about two months into the job and I’ve learned so much. How firms operate, how they communicate with clients, how they learn about new marketing techniques and how firms use the different social media platforms to create a base of followers. It’s all exciting and new to a rising Junior in college. Not to mention a great resume builder. When you think about it, they’re literally paying you in knowledge and skills. You know you won’t be the coffee intern when you’re not even getting paid to do it.

So when you’re scrolling through the list of internships to apply to, don’t skip over those unpaid ones. They could be the best experience you’ve ever gotten.


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