Unpaid Internships - Just as Competitive as a Paid Position?
Today I was speaking to one of my classmates, a masters student, about the internship she is working with. The internship is clear across the other side of town (at least a 1 hr drive away), and it is unpaid although she referred to it as her job. She also mentioned that it is too late in the year to choose a new internship as demand is high and supply is low.
Now, when did it come to the point that free, unpaid internships were in such high demand that the workplace has become saturated with them??? When did we get to the point where it would be such a great honor to be selected to volunteer my time to work for an organization for free? We are living in such a precarious time, when free, unpaid work - let alone normal paid work - is not something we can so easily secure.
Apparently, it doesn't matter where you live, what your demographics are, or even whether you are in the Ivy Leagues. Not too long ago, a friend of mine owned a small business, and young unemployed graduates were competing for unpaid positions at her company too. Including ivy league students.
Advice for the Student in Search of an Internship
I choose to believe that the solution will involve a combination of resourcefulness and networking.
1. Get Acquainted with Professional Networks: If you are aware of local associations in your field, by all means become a member and attend the conferences and networking meetings. This can open up opportunities for you to intern - or hey, even find paid employment with the organizations your acquaintances are part of.
2. Frequent Your University Career Office: Also, get to know your university career center, browse and scour through their listings. Being a student at the university will likely flag your resume to the potential employers/internship coordinators who chose to advertise at your school.
3. Keep in Contact with Faculty Advisors: Let your department advisor know that you are searching for an internship and they may have information about campus opportunities to share with you.
4. Utilize the Internet: Assuming you have already cold-called or cold-emailed your favorite organizations and companies and provided your resume and haven't heard back from them, I recommend going ahead and placing an ad on a site such as craigslist, saying that you are searching for an internship position. Don't be afraid at this point to state that you are hoping to be paid for transportation or a small stipend, but that you are open to negotiation.
I hope these tips are useful. These are what helped me to locate my volunteer opportunities and campus job. I wish you success in your search!