Lacking Profit? Abundant in Benefits? How unpaid internships still matter to the budding professional

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Internships are a student’s first step toward working in their desired career field, places filled with the potential to expand upon professional skills. A lucky number of students are fortunate enough to acquire paid internship positions in the fields of their choice; however, many more students are accepting unpaid internships. But they are finding reasons to be grateful for those unpaid internships.

Ksusha Karnoup, a senior comparative cultures and politics major, had an unpaid internship at Chiefs of Ontario in Toronto, Canada. Karnoup’s experience was enlightening, she said. “I learned what working at an N.G.O. [Non-Governmental Organization] is like; I learned what the atmosphere is like and the politics.”

Karnoup was very grateful for the opportunity to work at Chiefs of Ontario and for the skills and knowledge she gained, which included “connections, experience [and] understanding the field.” Furthermore, she said that unpaid internships are “useful for channeling interests. You need experience in [your] field, [it] was useful for that.” And these kinds of internships sometimes lead to jobs; when asked about accepting a job offer from them, she replied, “If law school gets pushed back a year or so, then yes.”

Joseph Kahn, an anthropology major, interned at 7C Lingo in Lansing. He said, “First and foremost, I gained research skills, and learned a lot about the e-book creation process … [I] bettered my interpersonal communication skills by interacting with my administrators and fellow interns.” Kahn also commented that his internship was “one more credential” to add to his resume.

However, when it comes to selecting an internship for the summer or the school year, students consider whether it is wiser to gain experience or to accumulate an income by working at part time jobs. College costs a lot of money, and many students have to worry about paying for textbooks, living and classes. “If someone really needs income,” Karnoup said, “then [an unpaid internship] wouldn’t work for them… social sciences are unpaid. It’s more common for engineering, or lab [positions] to be paid.”

Kahn also shares similar sentiments. “I find it absurd how it is expected that people are willing to do unpaid work … I recognize that it is a personal choice, but when it become[s] a prerequisite for a decent job, it becomes an absurdity to me.”

However, both students still found reasons for gratitude. They gained knowledge in their chosen fields, built connections with coworkers and supervisors, and applied classroom practices and theory to their work. All of these are things to be grateful for when developing a resume and hunting for a future position in an interest-specific career field.

 

Cynthia Bezinque is a senior studying professional writing with a minor in documentary production. When she isn’t working on video production she loves to sew, make stained glass projects and read. Board game nights are a thing in her family.