Career Advice for Job Seekers

Unpaid internships sometimes pay off for college students who are searching for jobs

Steven Rothberg AvatarSteven Rothberg
November 10, 2020

College Recruiter believes that every student and recent graduate deserves a great career. There’s little doubt that one of the best ways for a college student to land a great, entry-level job is to first intern for that organization and then convert that internship into an entry-level job upon graduation.

We’ve written extensively about why we favor paid internships for all students. In general:

That said, it is true that unpaid internships do sometimes pay off for the student who hopes to convert that experience into a great career. Case in point is Alana Pulver, Manager of Public Relations & Social Media at Transmedia Group in Boca Raton, Florida. She recently shared with us her experience as a spring 2020 graduate, which meant that she went being in one of the best job markets in history at the beginning of the year to the worst by spring. According to Alana:

During COVID-19, it is especially hard for people to stay motivated and seek out job opportunities and jobs. When I began searching for an internship opportunity back in March, I researched every public relations firm in South Florida. Yes, it may seem a bit crazy to reach out to firms which aren’t even hiring, but it is the best thing you can do right now.

I remember finding TransMedia Group public relations firm when conducting my research and it is the #1 agency in South Florida. I thought to myself, “this may be completely unattainable.” However, it was the greatest decision I could have made.

It took about a week for the President of the company to get back to me with all of the internship information I needed. I began working as an unpaid intern remotely in May and learning a great deal of skills while interning from home.

If there is major tip I could give an intern it is to show initiative: do the above and beyond! Trust me, it pays off, I know from experience. One month into my internship of writing press releases, creating connections for clients, and managing social media accounts, my boss called me and asked when I will be graduating from college. It just so happened that I was graduating in June, and the timing working out perfectly. Once I graduated, I was offered a full-time job at TransMedia Group and have loved every day since starting out as an intern.

It should be noted that unpaid internships are more common in certain industries than others. Public relations is an industry in which paid internships are rare and unpaid internships are the norm.

Some unpaid internships do create win-win scenarios for both the employer and employee, as happened with Alana’s unpaid internship with TransMedia. I’m happy for her and her employer as the unpaid internship clearly led to them hiring her and how well it is working out for all concerned.

In general, paid internships are better for the student, employer, and society. But, sometimes, a paid internship is simply not an option for the student. In those cases, if they’re able to make it work financially, an unpaid internship may still be a good thing or even, as here, a tremendous success.

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