An Unpaid Internship May Not Be A Paying Job, But That Doesn’t Mean It’s Not Still Work
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An Unpaid Internship May Not Be A Paying Job, But That Doesn’t Mean It’s Not Still Work

I originally intended to put out a piece like this around this time last year... but you know what? I'm almost glad that I've waited to write up this piece, because it could still apply even now… and then some – by a lot!

An Unpaid Internship May Not Be A Paying Job, But That Doesn’t Mean It’s Not Still Work

I'm going to be honest here: I originally intended to put out a piece like this around this time last year, just following a very similar piece I wrote at that time on an open(ish) letter to employers to stop requiring experience to actually get that experience in that job, a piece that you can read right here, but you know what? I'm almost glad that I've waited to write up this piece, because it could still apply even now… and then some – by a lot!

It's similar in that – and I'm not sure about you or where you may be in your career/professional development – but for me, it's the same song and dance from my family, most of all my dad: "When are you going to get a real job that pays? You need to ditch that internship. It's not doing you any good if you're not getting paid for your work." However, now more than ever, with the Coronavirus looming over us and keeping us indoors, this intensity (and even pressure) has only increased by a large margin.

And why do I say "pressure"? Well, if you're a creative like me, skilled within the arts and humanities field(s) and looking to broaden/venture out to where your work will most likely be seen and hopefully one day appreciated, then you know exactly what I mean… It's the pressure to get yourself out there, to be seen when you're not in the slightest bit prepared for it, which is again increased almost ten-fold given the pandemic, which threatens our very lives and reminds us once again that we only live once and that we have to "go for it."

Well, easier said than done, I'm afraid… but not impossible.

And you know, I get it: unpaid internships suck in that aside from college credit, which more often than not, doesn't even transfer over – and given that I've already got a plan in place on how to lock in my EXP+ credit, which renders my own unpaid internship null and void on that front – but what any of the experienced adults in my own life don't realize is that there aren't that many paying jobs out there that have me match up perfectly with what they're looking for in an intern, and the ones that do require a Bachelor's degree from me in return – one I'm so close to getting.

Let me just stop right here to reflect on this certain point I brought up: if you really think about it, do you really need a Bachelor's degree to get a certain job done? Sure, it may prove that you went to college and got a degree in a specialized area and that you can now devote most of your time to doing said job, but couldn't you have learned that same material in an online course and put that on your résumé? And what about the full-time workers who also happen to be part-time college students? Don't they get a say in this? Who said you can't do both at the same time?!

I'm aware that this is a taboo subject, I know, and a controversial one at that, but it's still a subject that's worth bringing up from time to time.

Look, I'll get straight to the point here: because of the world we're living in now, which is now vastly different from the world we were living in just a year ago when I had the idea for this piece, while paying jobs are essential to how we live in this world – "making a living" and climbing up the ladder in the field we're shooting for – it shouldn't be the only thing that limits us, because experience, above all else, paid or not, is the main thing we should be striving for.

Experience is the thing that we are free to put on our résumés, allowing us to show off – to recruiters, employers, and anyone else looking to hire new talent – and land that job we want! The more you can do at a time, for yourself or for any internship you feel more than compelled to put in all your time and effort for, professionally and even just personally, the more you can reap the long-term rewards from those seeds you had sown.

Bottom line: unpaid work is still work, and unpaid experience is still experience, so while it's not ideal for my bank account to suffer like this, as any struggling new adult can more than relate to, whether throughout their college career or maybe even upon graduating from college into this "brave new world," I shouldn't be given the extra humiliation of holding onto a chance to work up in the world, a starting point from which I can actually start to earn some real money…

So, if anyone from my family is reading this right now, I'm not ditching my internship just because it doesn't pay. You might think that I now have the option to walk away with just a year under my belt, but just a year of experience will not cut it, so I'm sticking with it where I see fit. It's my choice, but yours. I'm really passionate about the work I do for my internship, I love working with them, and they need me right now. I just know that I just can't abandon them; you wanted me to get experience, and I'm getting experience.

Sure, I'm still looking for paid work – in fact, the paid internship program I've wanted to get into for close to the past two years just opened applications for the fall semester! – but that's no reason to drop what my family may think of as "dead weight." Without that weight, which may make up most of the foundation I need to build up my personal brand off of, I'd do nothing but fall right through the cracks.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.

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