For every student out there, in order to graduate you need to obtain around 3 months of actual experience in order to graduate with your degree. These short-term periods of educational and experimental career-boosting experiences are also known as internships. I’d say in the last 5 years, especially in the last 2 because of the pandemic, a battle between which type of internship you should choose has risen. However, in this article, we’re not going to debate whether all internships should be paid or not. We’re going to talk about which one you should choose to help further your career and advance your opportunities in the big leagues. Paid or unpaid internships… Which should you pick?

To answer this question we’ll want to cover a few things first that will help you decide this monumental step forward. We’re going to cover typically what each of these categories of internships looks like on a work or talent scale, the pros and cons to both, as well as the consequences that can come about choosing either one. You really don’t want to make the wrong choice if you don’t have to! So let’s try and determine which one is best for you before you go and make the leap. However, just keep in mind that all choices have a consequence (whether good or bad) and no matter what happens you have the opportunity to learn from them. So keep pushing forward!

What Paid & Unpaid Internships Typically Look Like. Pros & Cons.

When it comes to the workload you’ll experience, the skillsets you’ll need, and the outcomes of each you can easily pinpoint what direction you’ll want to start looking towards. For the sake of this article, we’re going to be particularly looking at just entry-level and beginner internships, as these will be the ones to help you get your foot in the door. Each will look very similar in some aspects, but different methods as to the experience you’ll gain.

Paid internships are heavily based on the fact that “time is money” and if you’re going to be paid, you’ll need to provide value to the company. many times the entry-level internships that are paid aren’t that entry-level, to begin with. However, these tend to be more competitive because they’re looking for someone who will bring value to their company since they’re paying you to perform certain tasks. They require you to have a baseline knowledge of skill sets in return for more company structure when it comes to projects and workflow. You’re treated more like an actual employee in my opinion. To better prepare yourself for these kinds of internships, might I suggest going on indeed, handshake, or other resources where you can see the qualifications of internship listings. Here, you can begin looking at the skill sets you’ll need and either find classes at your credited university or online courses that will help you gain experience in that area.

Unpaid internships, on the other hand, are typically less likely to assign meaningful tasks that give real experience and be well structured. Since you’re working for free you’re either going to be given lots of time to do self-research and figure things out yourself or can expect to do very minimal projects that won’t give you the in-depth training and experience you need. However, much of the time an unpaid internship is more reachable and available in your area. When it comes to utilizing your time in an unpaid internship, make sure to use it wisely and make the most of any time you get to grow your personal and professional skills. Although there might not be a designated individual to train you to step by step on how to do certain tasks, this is a great opportunity to take online courses and apply the knowledge you gain to your internship work or projects.

The Consequences of Choosing an Internship

When it comes down to it, you really can’t go wrong with getting a paid or unpaid internship first. However, what will make a huge difference is what you’ll get out of it. As mentioned before, you can still have a great experience with an unpaid internship. You just have to find great resources or materials that will help you grow, as well as have good personal motivation and time management skills.

To give you an example, my first internship ever was unpaid. No matter how hard I tried to apply or find one that would help out financially at the same time, it just was impossible. While I worked part-time as a valet driver, I found and attended an unpaid internship that was supposedly established and had a great program. This was not the case as they had no one there to train me. I’m not going to lie, it kind of sucked at first, and it was difficult to find the motivation to continue on. However, I realized that I’m in control of what kind of progress I make. So, I stuck with it and utilized my time there by researching the crap out of the marketing industry and digital marketing in specific. I practiced what I learned and implemented it into my workflow which provided value to the company.

Eventually, after my internship, I was offered a paid position to grow their marketing department and establish an actual internship program. This then lead to teaching what I learned, instilling into my brain skillsets, and building my operational management skills by leading a group of 4–5 interns at a time to accomplish marketing tasks. In return, I had to master more skills and channel management in order to keep up with the demands of teaching. Resulting in my personal growth and professional skillsets increasing daily! After staying with the company for a total of 2 years, I eventually moved on to better-paying jobs and positions that would result in major career growth!

Which Should You Choose?

Hopefully, this gave you some peace of mind that you can grow your career skills in any setting. No matter if you start out with a paid or unpaid internship, you can find ways to improve personally to reach any goal or any job that you set your mind to. Invest your time into an internship that will be flexible and forthright to give you a good learning experience overall. Most importantly, get your foot in the door sooner than later if you want to jumpstart your progress!

Follow my page for more tips and tricks on how to grow your skillsets and resources as a digital marketer!