I read an interesting article at The Wall Street Journal’s At Work blog. It was entitled, “Are Unpaid Internships Worth the Effort.” They report that a new survey from the National Association of Colleges and Employers finds that an internship may lead to a job, but a graduate’s chances are better if you get paid.
A few thoughts here. Consider the economy. It is simply harder for a recent graduate to get a job – period. Which is why I would recommend an internship. Future employers are more impressed with real life experience, not just an education. Which is why I never recommend a student go straight to grad school after graduating with an undergraduate degrees. There are some exceptions to this like if you’re pursing an MD, but I think for most it prices graduates out of entry-level positions in most careers. Not to mention the amount of debt a student typically racks up in order to complete grad school right away, but that can be a completely different topic.
My experience is that internships can be good whether they are paid or unpaid. The key ingredient is what you are able to do in that internship. Do you get the opportunity to learn new skills? Can you put what you learned in school to practice? Is the person you’re working under going to be a great mentor (and future reference)?
If you can answer yes to all three of those questions then the experience you gain is worth far more than any paycheck you may receive. You don’t have to list on your resume that it was paid or unpaid anyway.