Should You Take An Unpaid Internship?

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When someone hears the words “unpaid” and “work” in the same sentence, the first reaction is usually to turn the other way. Foregoing a paycheck, for an internship, may not fit everyones budget (considering living expenses, car payments, etc). However, sometimes the opportunity presented seems to good to pass up. The company might be one where having their name on your resume is enough to trump a paycheck- for a period of time, of course. It can be a daunting dilemma to decide if taking an unpaid internship is worth it. So to make a clear decision, lets consider pros and cons on taking an unpaid internship.


Gaining Experience & Networking

There are seemingly few benefits to taking an unpaid internship. However, they are still important ones. The experience you gain from interning at any particular company is great to put on your resume. The work is completely valid, whether paid or not. Another positive aspect to an unpaid internship is that you will be able to network and make connections that can later be used as references. Although both can be said for a paid internship, an unpaid internship is the next best option if you’re more focused on getting experience vs. payment.

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Working For Free

This is probably the biggest disliked aspect to an internship that doesn’t pay. You work, a job, without the benefit of getting paid for your work. Many people feel that this is completely unfair, considering that companies are benefiting from free labor and that they essentially exploit unpaid interns to get free work.

No Employee Protection

Another downside to unpaid internships is that they don’t offer protection against employee discrimination or sexual harassment. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects employees, however, does not have protective provisions for unpaid interns or “trainees” in regards to discrimination and harassment. This is a big aspect to consider before diving into any unpaid position. You want to always take into consideration your safety and protection. If you feel that you are (or would be) unsafe, discriminated against or harassed, its best to remove yourself from that situation.

Unpaid Internships Are Often Illegal

Yes, you read that right; Illegal. In June 2013, concerning a case of two interns working on the film, ‘Black Swan’, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York ruled that the interns were classified as employees rather than “trainees” according to the Fair Labor Standards Act. For an intern to be classified as a “trainee”, their relationship with the employer adhere to the criteria of a six-part test, which explains the nature of an approved intern-employer relationship.

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The unfortunate thing about an unpaid internship is that is can be very easy to be taken advantage of in that situation. However, if the opportunity of a paid internship does not present itself and if willing to take the risk, there are benefits that can help you gain the experience needed to help fuel the advancement of your career.

Ask Heidi: Are Lash Extensions Worth It?

Q: Hi Heidi – I was wondering if you can help me out. I have really fine eyelashes and I’m wondering if there is an alternative to putting on globs of mascara every morning? – Lash Challenged.

A: One of the best things about living in 2015, besides having an app for everything are the many options available to us that are lash-challenged. I have had them done a few times previously, but felt brave enough to try them again a few weeks back mostly because a lash extension service GoBlushYourself (GBY) decided to set up shop in my favorite beauty salon in Santa Monica. It helped quite a bit that they had such a cute name for their lash extension service – The Moscow Meow. Yes I’m a cat person.

So my natural lashes usually look like this on most days :


But this is what they look like with lash extensions:

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According to Courtney Casgraux, GBY’s founder and all-around lash expert, how thick and long your end result is depends on the condition of your natural set of lashes. Because I had really fine lashes to begin with, she could not put on a whole lot more more as the extensions would weight my own lashes down. Here are a few things to know about lashes before getting them done:

1. Not all lashes are created equal. Lash extensions are usually either synthetic, silk or mink.  100% mink lashes are more expensive/superior because they look and feel more real. You can also curl them at home. The Moscow Meow consists of both silk and mink lashes, so they look great and aren’t as costly, and are $250 for a full set.

2. Lash extensions can last between 2 to 6 weeks. If you are the kind to rub your eyes frequently, or your own eyelashes shed more, you’ll need a refill faster. A Moscow Meow (I will never get tired of saying that) refill costs $150, but normal refill can start from as low as $75.

3. Consider your lifestyle. If you sweat a lot, the sweat and oil from your eyes can make your extensions fall out faster. GBY has an ‘Active Lash’ service where they use a special adhesive that is virtually sweat proof.

4. Determine what kind of look you are going for. How dramatic the end result is depends on your natural set of eyelashes. Lash extensions won’t give me peepers like Kim Kardashian because I don’t have 1/4 the volume of eyelashes she has. If you’re really not sure, go for a half set first and see what that looks like. I also find opting for more volume but sticking to around your natural lash length is optimal for a subtle yet very sexy effect.


Service takes about an hour plus, and for about 3 weeks, I was the owner of a pair of fluttery lashes that were sexy and smudge proof. Meow indeed.

PS: If you want to know more about lash extensions as well as GBY’s other services , do check them out on Yelp. 

My Dream Job is Now a Drag

Dear Heidi,

I landed my dream job about two years ago. It was fantastic. I finally had the chance to what I dreamed about since I was a kid — an animator at one of the top companies — and I was really passionate about what I was doing. That lasted about a year until the reality of office politics and the toll of a 9 to 5 (let’s be real, 7 am to 9 pm) work day hit me. Now I’m bored, frustrated and worst of all, unhappy. What do I do to get out of this slump? Is it just a phase or should I call it quits?

— Shattered Dreams


Uh oh. The honeymoon phase at your “dream job” has come to an end.
On the bright side, deets on this outfit coming soon.

Dear Shattered Dreams,

A quick reality check: Office politics and big companies go together like bad botox on an episode of RHOBH. There is no separating the two. In fact, the bigger the company, the more office politics there will be. So if you think going to another company will get rid of office politics, it’s not going to happen.

So how do you handle office politics? You don’t. Just accept that it’s part of adult life and working with a big company, or don’t work with a big company. Also, define what you mean by being “happy.” Often, not being happy is the result of not knowing what you want.

So you’re an animator at a big company. Ask yourself: what’s the point? Did you want to become an animator to inspire people to look at the world differently 24/7? Or did you want to become an animator because you think you can work for a big company doing something you like… but just from 9 to 5 ?

As for “the toll of working 7am to 9 pm” daily, well,  the PC answer is for me to tell you to get your work-life balance figured out. The real answer is, it’s more realistic to aim for work-life integration instead. Sometimes, there really are can’t-wait-’til-tomorrow deadlines. At times, you’ll have to decide which is more important: work ambition or personal time. Tough love, darling.

Being bored and frustrated at work is very normal. I can’t tell you how often I feel like calling it quits and just sit at home playing with kittens. Then I get emails from readers telling me how much they love my blog or asking me for help on a fashion or work issue… and I remember why I do what I do. So, take a minutes (or hours, days) and try to remember why you wanted to be an animator as a kid.

As a quick fix –  I suggest watching quick 10 min clips of House of Cards anytime you feel your work politics getting the better of you. You’ll thank your lucky stars that you don’t have the Underwoods in your office.

Photo by Josefina Andrés for Vogue

How to (Politely) Decline When Someone Asks to ‘Pick Your Brain’

Dear Heidi,
I work in publishing and (I say this in danger of tooting my own horn) in the last year I’ve done really well for myself. As people in my network start to take notice, I’ve been getting a lot of invites to “grab coffee,” which I’ve come to learn is code for “pick your brain.” Now, don’t get me wrong, I love chatting with other creatives and bouncing ideas back and forth. However, when acquaintances I haven’t talked to in years ask me to grab lunch or coffee out of the blue, I hesitate. I don’t want to be rude but at the same time, I don’t like the idea of having my brain picked while I eat my tuna salad. How do I say no without coming off as a schmuck?
Not a schmuck


Hello Schmuckless Darling,
I’ll confess that I cringe every time I hear the phrase “pick your brain.” The entire notion of seeking expertise under the guise of a Starbucks latte is much too contrived for my liking. However, I understand your guilt at turning someone away when at some point in your career, you most likely sought (and maybe still seek) similar advice from those you admire.

If it helps, you’re not alone. Many experts in their fields have even started charging for these so-called “lunches” at a cost that’s much more than your tuna salad.

“I offer free advice, when appropriate, but I feel it should be my call, not theirs,” says Steve Cony, president of Communications Counselors, tells NYP. “When someone asks to pick my brain, I bristle. My brain is how I earn my living — would you ask a plumber to unclog a drain for free?”

So, the next time you encounter an unsolicited brain picker, politely tell them that “I’d love to, but unless it’s for a consultation, I’m afraid I’ll have to pass. My rate is ___, if you’re interested and if so, we can figure out a time that works for both of us.” Don’t know how much to charge? There’s an app for that.

Of course, make sure you make time — free of charge — for old friends, those you want to curry favor from later and your most die-hard fans.  And even for these pro-bono sessions try to go by these 3 rules.

If you have to do any kind of research/study, or really rack your brain to come up with solutions to help, forget it.

By the way, a tuna salad is too messy to eat in public. I’d suggest some portobello mushroom fries.

Photo by ICON