The TRUTH About Unpaid Interns

Last week, PR Daily posted this article featuring 5 things not to expect from an unpaid intern. The article basically tells internship coordinators and PR pros who will work with these interns to brace themselves. It describes unpaid interns as slackers who won’t be motivated to be great interns if they aren’t being paid to do so.

Having completed two unpaid internships with a third in progress, I know a few things about being an unpaid intern. The PR Daily article definitely does not describe any successful intern I’ve ever met, paid or unpaid. While being paid to intern is great and a big help to many, it should not be your only criteria when selecting an internship, nor should it determine the type of intern you will be. I know plenty of students who have held multiple unpaid internships and walked away with a wealth of knowledge of their field. I also know people who have held multiple paid internships, and only walked away with a paycheck.

That being said, here are three things I believe you should actually expect from an unpaid intern:

1. They are passionate about their field: Knowing that twice a week I get to wake up and do what I’m most passionate about is the best feeling in the world. Unpaid interns do what they do because they love what they do. Doing the job for free shows that they refuse to put a numerical value on their passion.

2. They will give it their all: Despite what PR Daily says about unpaid interns giving their all, I believe that an unpaid intern will put everything they have into an internship. Many times, interns are upperclassman (juniors and seniors) who will be searching for long term employment in the near future. They cannot afford to risk a bad recommendation  an underdeveloped resume, or to lose industry connections. For these reasons, along with many others, unpaid interns will give their all to their internships!

3. They want to learn and grow: My favorite part about interning is getting a chance to observe the workplace environment. You learn the most from just observing how your superiors go about things and handle certain situations. Unpaid interns, as they aren’t being paid, want to leave with a takeaway, and that takeaway is knowledge. The goal of every intern should be to know more by the end of their internship about the field than they did when they started.

Have you ever held or are you currently holding an unpaid internship? Do you think less is expected of you than a paid intern? What did you think of PR Daily’s article? Share your thoughts!!

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