Undergraduate Blog / Career Development

Unpaid Internships Are Worth It

I work really hard at my job. I go in early, leave late, ask everyone in my department if they need help, and if it’s a busy day, I’ll even offer to go get coffee. I take on difficult assignments, easy assignments, and even the really annoying, stereotypical “intern” tasks, like organizing the poster closet or counting inventory. I work really hard and spend a lot of my time at work, but every time others see me working so hard, they all feel obligated to remind me, “you know you’re not getting paid, right?” Yes. I am aware. Thanks for the reminder.
It baffles people that I work so hard. I’m not obligated to, and I’m clearly not expected to, and yet I do. Yes, I have an unpaid internship, and it’s totally worth it. Here’s why:

People Notice

Interns tend to have a stigma that follows them, especially when people know they are unpaid. People think the only reason they take it is to have the company name on their resume or because they couldn’t get anything else. If people see that you show up early, you get to know people, you work hard, and you do more than expected, it doesn’t go unnoticed. People always need help at work and if you are always there to offer assistance in any way whenever they need it, employees will appreciate you and remember that you were the one they could go to. Employers remember the interns who worked hard and were present every day when they didn’t have to be.

You’ll Learn More

The point of any internship is to learn and the more you show your willingness to work hard, the more opportunity you have to learn. Employees will see the interns who are going above and beyond at work, and they will take the time to teach you when they see that. I’ve had tons of opportunity to sit down with other people in my office and learn about what they do, and get to take part in some of the cooler parts of their jobs. I’ve been invited to lunch with executives, I’ve gone to events and met artists and their team. I’ve learned about all the different aspects of the company and have gained a better understanding of what I want to do in the industry. If you’re not learning anything at your job, why bother being there?


Everyone knows that it is really tough not making any money from your job, especially when you are living in a city. In my case, I’m living in New York City, and working three days a week at a job that doesn’t pay me, and that’s really tough. People know that and when they see you working hard anyways, they respect you. When people respect you, they are more likely to want to help you, whether it is simply sitting down with you to talk about their job and teach you about what they do, or if it’s a few years later when they are helping you find a job in the company.

Finding Jobs

As I started to mention above, if you work hard at your internship, your opportunity for jobs after you graduate are significantly better. Even if you don’t want to work for the company you interned for, you will still have some great references who will argue your excellence for you. If you make the right impression and make yourself memorable, when a job opening occurs, you will be their first phone call. Companies want to hire hard working people, and what better way to prove how hard working you are, than when you go above and beyond, even when you are not getting paid. The name on the resume is good, but when you have an entire department worth of people who know what a good worker you are, that is how you will score the great jobs.

Having an unpaid internship can be a struggle for sure, but it can also be a environment for you to shine, as long as you are willing to put in the work. Don’t waste the opportunity, and make the most of it!