Unpaid Internships Build Resumes

Q.  I have applied for more than 10 advertised internship openings, but have not been able to land any of them.  One agency has offered an unpaid 2-month internship.  What do you think about taking unpaid positions?  -SB

A.  I recall grimacing when my sons were offered only unpaid internships, but we felt these internships would lead to full-time positions. . .and they did.   Unfortunately, unpaid positions are becoming the “cost of admission” — the new reality — for many career tracks.

I remain a strong advocate of paid internships, especially when individuals are doing work that would otherwise be performed by full-time staff members or if the work is billable to a client. 

In the current economy, however, many companies and agencies offer unpaid internships where students and graduates work on research and other non-client facing assignments.  Such temporary assignments fill your dance card for a couple of months while you continue to search for a paying position.  

Most of my academic and business colleagues indicate that a minimum of two or three internships have become standard for anyone to be seriously considered for a full-time position.  Unpaid internships count just as much as paid ones on your resume, so I look at these as an “extra semester” of college.  Ideally, you only have to endure one unpaid internship before landing one that pays.  And don’t stop looking for a paying internship or full-time job while in the temporary gig. 

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