Unpaid Opportunities: Good, Bad, Exploitative?

Are you considering an unpaid internship? Read this before you make your decision!

Welcome back to Practically a Pro! I am here this week to blog about unpaid opportunities. During my last post, I stressed the importance of getting involved on campus. What I failed to mention, however, was that some (if not most) of these opportunities are unpaid. Now, this is a huge problem for college students. Many college students have to work to support themselves, and this work needs to bring in money.

So, the question I pose is this: are unpaid opportunities good, bad, or are they exploitative?

My answer? All of the above. It truly does depend on the opportunity. For example, I conduct social media outreach for a student-run publication on campus. I am not paid in exchange for my effort. However, I believe that the experience is beneficial to me in other ways. What I mean is this: I am doing a small amount of work for no money, however, I am getting great experience that will look good on a resume and prepare me for a future job. All of that being said, the key to my reasoning is that it is a small amount of work. I am doing less than part-time work, therefore I don’t see the need to be paid.

We all know that this situation isn’t always the norm. Take unpaid internships for example. The intern does a significant amount of work, perhaps enough work to warrant a part/full time paid position. But they aren’t being paid. Unpaid internships are, in my humble opinion, completely exploitative. Businesses and organizations are exploiting an intern to get a large amount of work done for no money. Even though the internship looks good on a resume, that alone is not worth the amount of work going into it.

I understand that for some, money is no issue and therefore they don’t care if their internship is paid. That’s great for them! But what employers have to understand is that interns deserve to be paid.

So we have to look at unpaid opportunities on a case by case basis. Bottom line is this: if the work load is relatively small (not enough to warrant a paid part or full time employee,) take the opportunity! However, if it is an opportunity that requires an exorbitant amount of work for no pay-think twice. The last thing I want for my readers is to be duped into thinking that their unpaid internship is fair when they are actually being exploited.

Keep your eyes open and your instincts loud. If it doesn’t feel right-it probably isn’t.

Until next time,

Ashley

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