Unpaid internships

Unpaid internships

An internship is one way to get work experience that will strengthen your graduate job applications.  However, some internships are unpaid, particularly in sectors such as the media or politics.

So how do you decide whether an unpaid internship is a valuable opportunity or should you be looking for a job which will give you some much-needed cash? 

The following may help you decide whether an unpaid internship is valuable:

  • Discuss the purpose of the internship and clarify expectations on both sides from the start.
  • Be clear about how long you want the placement to last for.
  • Ensure the placement is valuable – does it give you an insight into a particular industry? Will it improve your skills or clarify your career aspirations? Will you get a reference out of it?
  • Will there be any training or development with this opportunity? Will you have a supervisor/mentor to help you with this?
  • Discuss the possibilities of any future paid work with the employer, pointing out the skills that you have gained during the internship.
  • Re-consider the value of the internship if it ceases to supply useful contacts and training opportunities.
  • National minimum wage legislation states that it is unlawful to take someone on as a worker and not pay an appropriate wage. If you are being expected to work certain hours, have specific job role which is useful to the organisation, then your company may be in contravention of this legislation. For more information see http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/Employment/index.htm.
  • Everyone has a choice and if you feel that you are being exploitated then it is up to you to decide whether to continue or not.

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