College is expensive.
Between rent, groceries, gas money, bills and nights out, it can be hard to make ends meet, especially when so much time is spent in class and time to work is limited.
Many college students are faced with a tough choice: taking the unpaid internship they’ve been offered or turning it down to work a paid part-time job.
Some majors have a pretty great set up. Engineering majors, for example, often have the opportunity to partake in co-op programs that not only provide valuable experience, but also usually pay quite well.
The rest of us aren’t always quite so lucky.
Paid internships exist, but they’re often difficult to come by, depending on your major and where you’re located.
So, is it worth it? Should you really donate 10, 15, 20 or even more hours of your life every week to a company or organization that’s not offering you any monetary compensation for your work?
I’d say yes, you should. And here’s why:
Even though you’re not receiving any monetary compensation for your work, you will still benefit in many ways from the internship you’re taking on.
1. It’ll be a good addition to your résumé.
Building a strong résumé is something that is stressed to us college kids from day one. Without a strong résumé, how can we expect to land a job?
Internships, both paid and unpaid, can be a great thing to help build up your experience, which will be helpful when graduation comes around and you’re thrown out into the real world.
After all, a strong résumé is one of the most important qualities employers consider when looking at applicants.
2. Statistically speaking, if you don’t take on an internship, you’re already behind.
Years ago, a college education was typically reserved for the more privileged young adults.
Nowadays, with the huge number of scholarships available and with the ability most people have to take out student loans, a much larger number of people continue their education past high school.
With such a large pool of applicants who are just as well educated — if not even more so — than you, are it’s important to do everything you can to get ahead.
Otherwise, you might have thrown thousands and thousands of dollars down the drain and ended up with nothing to show for it.
A study of graduates from one university shows that students who completed an internship were 13 percent more likely to find a full-time job upon graduating.
That means you can raise your odds of finding full-time employment by 13 percent simply by spending a few extra hours per week, one semester working as an intern.
Not only that, but according to internships.com, 67 percent of 2013 college grads completed at least one internship, and 32 percent completed two or more internships.
If you’re not picking up at least one internship, you’re already behind nearly 70 percent of your classmates.
3. It can help you figure out what you want to do when graduation comes.
An estimated 20-to-50 percent of college students are undecided, and about 75 percent change their majors at least once during their college careers.
These changes can be costly because they can set you back and require extra semesters/years in order to complete your degree once you finally decide what you want to do.
Taking an internship can give you the opportunity to get real, hands-on experience in the type of career you think you want to pursue.
From there, you’ll have a much better idea of whether or not it’s something you’re truly interested in.
According to a survey of graduated students from Southwestern University, students who completed at least one internship ended up happier with their career choices after college.
This is because their internships allowed them to decide before entering full-time into a particular field whether or not it was something they enjoyed.
The last thing you want is to end up in a career you hate just because you thought you’d love it, but never really tried it out.
4. You might find networking opportunities or make a connection with someone who can write you a good letter of recommendation down the line.
Isn’t college all about gaining important skills and making connections?
Think about it: How many other times in your life will you have such a great opportunity to meet and network with so many people from all over the place? Not many.
Meet people now and stay in touch because somewhere down the line, you just might need them to put in a good word for you via a letter of recommendation for another internship, job, scholarship, etc.
5. Even though your internship is unpaid, there could be other benefits.
For example, many internships and colleges offer students the opportunity to receive class credit for working an internship.
Other internships may offer company benefits or even travel stipends.
6. Your unpaid internship could lead to a paid internship or a full-time job offer.
Sixty-nine percent of companies with 100 plus employees ended up offering their interns full-time positions back in 2012.
Internships.com reports, “35.3 percent of employers’ full-time hires came from their internship programs.”
Furthermore, 73 percent of large companies (100+ employees) are seeking interns because they want to find full-time employees.
If you do a good job and remain enthusiastic about the work you’re doing, you have a pretty big chance of impressing someone in the company enough that they’ll want to keep you around a while longer (and pay you for staying).