The Ultimate Gen-Y Struggle: How To Get Through Your Unpaid Internship

by Amy Dickey

If you are currently in the process of getting your undergraduate degree, your university or college has probably stressed that the only way to land a job after graduation is to have several internships under your belt.

The downside of these sacred internships is that if they're in the fields of communications, advertising or political science, they are most likely going to be unpaid.

Unpaid internships give you the experience you need when you're ready to apply for "grownup jobs," but they can be tough to get through while staying motivated. Here are some of the experiences unpaid interns have encountered and advice for handling such grueling tasks:

1. You Do B*tch Work

From filing and paper cut doom to answering phones and shredding every document in the building, this kind of work completely sucks.

Doing the work other people don't want to do sheds a different light on you to the employees around you. It demonstrates how you can be a team player, and that you're not afraid of getting your hands dirty by doing meaningless tasks for copious amounts of hours.

2. You Will Be Asked To Do Things That Were Not In The Job Description

I’ve had to do a lot of things that were not included the job description like taking out the trash, or watching other people’s children when they were in the office.

These types of tasks make it difficult to see the bright side; however, to your employer, not saying no to those things usually ends up in you getting to do something really cool later. Every job has some kind of perk, whether it is getting a free backstage pass to a music festival or getting to design a Facebook post on Photoshop.

3. You Lose Money Every Time You Go Into Work

This may be the worst part of the unpaid internship. You are going to lose money every time you step in your car and drive to and from work. The upside can be found in reminding yourself that each time you go into the office, you are one step closer to your dream job.

Remember what the internship will look like on your résumé -- not to mention, the connections you are making are invaluable. Keep your eye on the prize.

4. You Will Feel Unappreciated Most Of The Time

We are a generation that needs constant approval and positive reinforcement. So when you rarely get a “good job” or an “excellent work” compliment from your employer, it is normal to feel unappreciated.

When working at your unpaid internship, your boss has about a thousand other things going on. It is not his or her number one task to check in on you every five minutes and tell you how perfect you are.

What got me through the feeling of being unappreciated was really learning to value and cherish when my employer did express appreciation.

5. You Will Probably Feel Like You’re Never Going To Move Up In The Company

Okay, so a lot of us dive into internships expecting to be offered a full-time job. Let me reassure you that not every internship turns into a full-time position. Actually, internships rarely turn into jobs.

Companies simply do not have the resources or finances to create new positions from scratch after its interns graduate.  If you feel like the internship is not going to lead towards a job within the company, just relax. It could end up opening doors at another company, or through a connection you made at the place where you interned.

If you have an unpaid internship lined up this summer, you will run into most of the experiences above. However, unpaid internships can be one of the most rewarding times in your undergraduate career.

Every internship reveals, magnifies and sheds a little more light onto the career path you are supposed to eventually take, so pay attention and get as much out of the experience as possible.

Photo via The Internship