Like many college students, I didn't understand how vital internships are until late in my academic career. I had that natural student mindset, "everything would be okay" and, "I'll land a job somehow after graduation." If I hadn't attended a professional development workshop supported by my fraternity's alumni association, I would have learned the hard way I'm not entitled to anything. I was on the phone with my mother when I received an e-mail announcing a career workshop being arranged via my fraternity. I asked her, "Should I go to this?" She laughed and simply responded, "Why wouldn't you go? What's more important than your future?" So, I went. Lo and behold, it changed my life. Thank you, Mom.
Ways Unpaid Internships PayThe career seminar entailed one eye-opening lesson after another. Everything I learned immediately caused me to say to myself, "Jeez, I wish I knew that when I was a Freshman." While the workshop taught me a number of things related to personal and professional development, the one thing that stuck out for me was the noticeable fact how unprepared I was for life after graduation. I was lacking a critical variable: experience. I had prior workplace experience, but none of it was relevant to any of the industries I was curious about getting involved in. I knew I had to make-up for lost time so I went wild my last semester of college and got three separate internships. One was in radio, the other in marketing, and ironically, the third was with CAREEREALISM. I was worried though, because none of them were paid internships. I was in college and didn't have much money. Wow, was I wrong. The internships may not have contributed to my life in a monetary way, but they sure paid-off in other ways. The following explains how a single internship experience compares financially against the benefits of a full-time position at a business.
1. Paycheck = Exposure to Acceptable Workplace ConductIn a full-time job, you're compensated for the work you do by virtue of money. In an unpaid internship, your compensation is witnessing the realities of the workplace environment first-hand. For many of us, proper etiquette in an office setting comes natural. For others, it doesn't. By working in an office, you'll be exposed to some or all of the following:
- Appropriate dress code
- Co-worker team work
- Acceptance of authority
- Humility or understanding your role
- Development of office-phone behavior