COLUMN: If you're good at something, never do it for free


It's a vicious cycle juniors and seniors have been dealing with for years.

You need experience to get a job out of college. In order to get the experience, you need an internship. We are so desperate for this experience that we'd do just about anything to snag one – we'd even work for free.

Unpaid internships are all too common within recent years, and they're unfair to students.

You work at a job for no money, without any promise of an actual career to follow. The experience you receive from an internship can only provide an introductory level of experience, and it's not worth signing up for free labor.

I know first hand the difficulty of unpaid internships.

I wrote for a website that covered a Major League Baseball team, where my job, for the most part, was to cover their minor league affiliate about 40 miles away.

From April to September, I drove 80-plus miles three times a week. I worked late nights, watched games, wrote the articles, edited them and sent them before driving back home – only to do it all over the next day, for free.

Between another job and a full class schedule, my compensation, paired with my expenses, was never worth my time.

Don't do what I did – don't settle for any internship that is thrown your way. There are many internships out there and a lot of them pay for your work, offer college credit or a combination of both.

My advice is to look for internships that offer both money and college credit first. If that doesn't pan out, find one that only pays, followed by one that only gives college credit. Don't even consider one that offers neither.

It's insulting.

You shouldn't have to go through so much work to get basic experience. You should be getting what you need from your classes, from professors who have either worked in the field or are experts in the field you are pursuing.

Unpaid internships are outdated. Follow the words that I was once told by an old mentor of mine – if you're good at something, never do it for free.


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