When To Leave An Unpaid Internship

There are lots of pros and cons to an unpaid internship. You will learn how to do administrative tasks that are required for the real world, like Excel, and Adobe, but also more importantly office politics, how to dress and act for success, and if you have chosen the right career path. If you want to work in media, journalism, public relations, fashion, sports, or business, there is almost no way around the internship route.

In my experience as an intern, I’ve learned that not all internships are created equal. I’ve had amazing ones and so-so ones and I’ve learned a lot from both. My experience as an intern has landed me an amazing summer job and other sweet positions (with great pay and hours). From interning, I’ve learned that you need to be completely selfish. You are not doing your employer a favour by interning, you are doing you a favour by interning. You are learning, building a resume and a grad school application, and hopefully getting a job out of it. But, when do you leave an unpaid internship if it isn’t what you need it to be?


You Are Doing the Work of a Regular Employee 

If you are trained in a position and doing the workload of a regular paid employee, it is time to go. If this happens to you, then it’s time to start applying to new companies. An intern, you should be given small tasks in many areas of the company to learn the basics and your strengthens and weaknesses. If you are basically a regular employee without the paid part the company is really cheap and taking advantage of you.

You Realize They Probably Aren’t Going To Hire You 

You only can really afford to intern for so long. If you are with a company for more than three months and there has been little to zero talk of hiring you and there are few or none previous interns working within the company, start applying elsewhere else. There are legitimately thousands of internships and many people who refuse to work for free. Finding an internship isn’t that hard. Take your new experience and upgrade.

They Don’t Appreciate You 

I’ve held more internships than most people have had jobs. As a result, I’ve learned that some people assume that you are wealthy enough to work for free and doing it for fun. So, they tend to treat you like a trust-fund baby with infinite amounts of leisure time. If you are working your butt off without any recognition, it’s time to go.

If you can’t take a wealth of knowledge and a reference away from an internship at the very least, then the only difference between an internship and working at McDonalds is 10.25 an hour. Intern smart.



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  • Nour
    July 11, 2012 at 3:25 pm

    Excellent article! I loved it.