Career Advice for Job Seekers

6 reasons to pursue paid, part-time, career-related jobs instead of unpaid, full-time internships

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock
Photo courtesy of Shutterstock
Anita Jobb AvatarAnita Jobb
June 24, 2024

A lot of college and university students, recent graduates, and others early in their careers have the mistaken belief that landing an internship is absolutely key to their ability to later find a great, career-related job. To be clear, that is a great path, but it is far from being the only path.

If you’re able to land a paid internship in your chosen career path, fantastic! But most aren’t. And for those who aren’t, the temptation often is that they’re better off pursuing and even accepting a full-time, unpaid internship than any other kind of job. That temptation is understandable, but wrong. Allow me to explain why.

I get that Entering the workforce can be a daunting task for students, recent grads, and other early career candidates. Many young professionals find themselves choosing between part-time jobs that pay well but aren’t related to their career aspirations, unpaid internships, or career-related jobs that do pay. Here’s why it’s worth pursuing part-time, career-related, paid jobs:

1. Real-World Experience in Your Field

  • Hands-On Learning: These jobs provide practical experience that complements your academic knowledge. You get to apply what you’ve learned in real-world scenarios.
  • Understanding Industry Dynamics: By working within your chosen field, you gain insights into industry trends, work culture, and specific skills in demand.

2. Networking Opportunities

  • Building Professional Connections: Working in a career-related job allows you to meet professionals in your industry. These connections can be invaluable for future job opportunities and career advice.
  • Mentorship: Many workplaces have experienced professionals willing to mentor you, offering guidance that can shape your career path.

3. Resume Enhancement

  • Relevant Experience: Employers value candidates with direct experience in their field. A career-related job on your resume makes you stand out among other applicants.
  • Skill Development: You develop and refine skills directly applicable to your future career, making you a more attractive candidate.

4. Financial Independence

  • Earning While Learning: Getting paid for your work helps you become financially independent. You can support yourself, pay off student loans, or save for future goals.
  • Valuing Your Time: Paid jobs demonstrate that your time and skills are valuable. This fosters a sense of professionalism and boosts your confidence.

5. Career Clarity

  • Testing the Waters: Early career-related jobs allow you to explore different roles and responsibilities within your field. This can help you identify what you enjoy and where you excel.
  • Informed Career Decisions: With real-world experience, you can make more informed decisions about your career path. You’ll know what you like and what to avoid.

6. Long-Term Benefits

  • Pathway to Full-Time Employment: Many part-time roles can lead to full-time positions. Employers often prefer to hire from within, giving you a potential foot in the door for future opportunities.
  • Professional Growth: These jobs offer opportunities for growth and advancement. By proving yourself in a part-time role, you can position yourself for promotions and more significant responsibilities.

At the end of the day, employers almost always prefer to hire the applicant who is the least risky. Few employers have any interest in giving a candidate a chance, so appealing to their altruistic motives isn’t a good strategy. Instead, convince them that hiring you is a sure bet for them. To do that, you need to demonstrate to them that you’ve successfully done for another employer (or even in a class project) the same kind of work that they want to hire someone to do. But note that doesn’t mean that you’ve done that work full-time, as an intern, or even been paid to do it. Your next employer shouldn’t care what your employment status was (regular or intern), how many hours a week you worked, or what you were paid. Instead, they just want to feel confident that, if they hire you, that you’ll do their work well.

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