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.
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.
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.
Years ago, I walked down a hallway for a client meeting and bumped into the most handsome man I’d ever seen. Somehow I kept walking and met with said clients and didn’t come across as a blithering idiot in heat, and I got the job. I was so excited, not only because I desperately wanted this gig, but also because that meant I’d eventually be introduced to this man-god. Long-story short, I’d bump into Mr. Adonis on and off for a couple of years, and he was always nice but distant with me and later I learnt was batting for the other side.
My heartbreak aside, let’s be honest – with the 40-hour business week becoming a thing of the past, it’s natural for most of the new people we meet to be through work. But before you dive headfirst, let me give you a few tips I learned the hard way:
Photographed by Steven Meisel for Vogue
Golden Rule #1: Know the company policy about dating coworkers
There can be serious conflicts of interest. (Where I worked, there was a very strict one that seniors are not to date juniors without disclosing the fact to HR. If both parties are in a direct supervisor-supervised relationship, one of them would have to be reassigned to someone else, which was usually the more junior party.)
Golden Rule #3: Be careful to not misinterpret someone’s flirty nature
You don’t want to misread a situation and then make a good working relationship filled with awkward silences and avoiding each other.
Golden Rule #3: If you really can’t help yourself, go slowly.
That means don’t get physical immediately. Make sure this relationship has true legs before ending up being the butt of office innuendos around the water cooler.
Golden Rule #4: Of course all love lasts… but in case it doesn’t, be prepared.
Beware the break-up dangers that can ensue. You don’t want drama affecting how productive you are at work.
Golden Rule #5: Even in a best-case scenario, don’t forget that the butterflies will fade
Do you really want to spend all day in the office with your partner, and then go home to them as well? Can you really take orders (or give them) at work and then expect to fight fair at home over the remote control? As much as I love my boyfriend, one of the things I relish about our relationship is reuniting at the end of the day to dish about each other’s work-day experience.
I’ve heard and read plenty about this concept of a key to success. And yet I dare say, a lot of people haven’t even located the lock to begin with. To me, the following five concepts are the doors that you need to locate before you can unlock success.
Photo credit: HuffingtonPost
I use this anagram to remind myself of these ideas and to keep me focused when I want to succeed: WIN AT
In other words:
Want: Not what you want – focus on what others want. Only when you can offer something that others want, will you be able to succeed/sell/be heard.
Identity: Find, and be clear, of your own identity. How are you perceived by others? And is this the identity you want to project into the world? Hire a branding coach if necessary.
Not-known: Embrace the unknown. Be willing to face rejection and failure as you discover new paths. If one path doesn’t lead to success, you can walk down another. Let’s face it – if you haven’t reached your pinnacle of achievement, you haven’t discovered the right road which means it is still unknown to you. Look for it – it’s not where you’ve already been.
Above: Go above and beyond. Whatever your boss (or client or buyer) asks for – do more. Over-deliver. You’ll look like a rockstar if you surpass expectations.
True: Always be true to yourself. Being liked is nice, but changing your personal truth for someone else will not serve you in the end. Stand up for what’s best for you even if it’s unpopular. This doesn’t mean you should be hostile or abrasive, it simply means remaining honest about where you stand. Ultimately, you will be respected for your unflinching authenticity.
No matter what your success goal is – whether it’s CEO of your company, owner of your own business, or enjoying a fulfilling relationship – you have the power within you to WIN AT this game of life.