To Intern or Not – The Value of Working for Free

Posted by | August 14, 2012 | Tips For Job Seekers

With late study nights and long days of class behind you, you’ve graduated and you’re ready to move onto the next chapter in life. Resumes are sent out but nothing transpires. You go to interviews only to be told you don’t have enough experience. As an entry level candidate, how could you have enough experience? Now what?

Become an intern.

There’s no doubt that your parents will raise an eyebrow and wonder why you’re not looking for a “real” job. But internships can provide so much more value than just a paycheque. Internships (paid and non-paid positions) give graduates a chance to see how it is to work in the “real” world. It’s also an opportunity to see whether or not you actually like the job, company or industry. The barrier of “not enough experience” can be conquered with opportunities such as internships.

Just like real paying jobs, internships can have application deadlines so timing is critical. If you miss the window, you may have to wait another year to apply. Don’t make the mistake and assume that because an internship doesn’t pay you in dollars, it will be effortless to obtain. You could be vying for the same opportunity among many other eager graduates, so take the search for a great internship just as serious as a real job search.

Look for openings that are challenging and will foster growth as a person and as a potential employee. Review your current skill set and aim for an internship that is slightly beyond yours – experience is the true compensation so seek out placements that will give you considerable skill and knowledge.

It’s important to know why you want to be the best person for the job and be able to communicate it to the interviewer. Demonstrate your captivating personality, be able to give examples of your strong work ethic and of course, show the ability to appreciate the internship for what it is – a learning experience that can help build your professional portfolio and be useful in landing that legitimate job.

With that being said, once you’ve started an internship remember to treat it like a real job. Act professional with your co-workers and boss. Interns can be brought in multiple times a year so remember to always be friendly, make yourself stand out and show your enthusiasm to learn. Show up early or on time and avoid making mistakes (or at least own up to them when you make them) and go above and beyond if you can to stay late or do something outside of your job description.

Internships aren’t just for grads. For people changing their careers and discovering (or rediscovering) their passion, internships can affirm their career change and boost confidence while giving the necessary experience.

You may not reap the rewards right away but everyone has to start somewhere. Remember that with a little positive thinking and patience, your short-term career investment will pay off.

~ Jennee Rasavong is an administrative professional and a freelance Writer.

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