Internship - Are Unpaid Internships A Good Idea?

College & University enrollment rates have increased dramatically since the 1970s in the United States and technology alongside economic uncertainties are making the job market a tough place to land a job. With so many people enrolled in College and Universities, and those who have already graduated, competition is very high and employers are seeking the best of the best, in most cases employers won't hire unless you have a minimum amount of work experience. 

Internships themselves are no different than landing the actual job, they too are very competitive. So how do you gain experience if you can't get a job or an Internship? 

Unpaid Internships

Aren't those illegal? most people would say yes, and in some cases they are, however in the case for college and universities, Unpaid internships are not exactly illegal. 

it could be tough to take on this sort of responsibility when the cost of living is not exactly affordable ( especially if you live in New York )

But is it worth it?

I myself have been in this position, now entering my final semester at Suffolk County Community College in Long Island, NY, i wanted to stay ahead of the game and seek an internship while i was still in school. It was tough because i am a full time student and i was working roughly 65 hours a week just to be able to pay all my bills and school expenses. However with a little bit of time in between school in work i was able to squeeze in some time, if anyone would hire me for an internship position. 

i went on Craigslist and searched and found a few employers. I sent out about 11 emails along with my Resume and Cover Letter, only to receive one response. I called and set up a interview. By the end of the interview we had reached the usual talk about compensation, and i did what i believe was one of the smartest things i have done ever. I offered to take on the responsibility of Online Marketer with no pay. I would go on to dedicate about 12 hours a week in this company and within 5 months i was promoted to Marketing Director and by the second week i was compensated, even though i had signed up to be employed without pay. 

I believe i was 1 of 6 applicants, i was awarded the job and i truly believe it was because i wanted to take an unpaid internship, i saw this as my competitive advantage over the other applicants of which I'm sure had more experience than i, but it was somewhat of a "FREEMIUM" kind of thing. Sort of like " try me out, if i do good keep me, if not you can fire me".

The only thing i could do at this point is learn and move up, apply the skills i already have and educated myself on what was important in this field, and i did just that. To this day i sit as Marketing Director for two companies ( Cannot disclose for security purposes ) and although i may not be an expert at what i do, i gotta say i have learned a lot and I've been given the opportunity to do with a company, what i know most or no other company would be able to offer me. 

Summary

Don't be afraid to make mistakes, take risks and put yourself out there. If you can afford to take an unpaid internship, TAKE IT!, if you can't, try and negotiate compensation to a competitive level. Remember the Job Market is a very competitive place and you need to find ways to differentiate yourself.  

Not to mention Internships can earn you college credits!