It’s that time of year again! The weather is getting warmer, the last day of school is on the horizon . . . and it’s time to begin thinking about summer plans.
When it comes to career advancement, we are proponents of trying to get as much experience as possible to understand how to tailor skills for certain jobs and the breadth of opportunities that are out there. It is true that internships often lead to jobs, but they can be just as useful for figuring out what one doesn’t want to do for a living or what one doesn’t want to study. One of the biggest hindrances for career success is ignorance: people aren’t aware of how many options they truly have. For college admissions, they are an amazing way to make a case for a course of study. If you are on a gap year, taking an unpaid internship is a wonderful way to get your feet wet in the industry of your choice before you even begin studying a particular discipline. It is possible to spin any internship into general experience, so take every opportunity you can to learn!
College students should think about the costs of working for free, while high school students should take advantage of any valuable experience they can. In certain fields, unpaid interns are the standard and exist solely to expose the intern to the ins and outs of the industry. To graduate schools for law or policy, for example, an unpaid internship at the United Nations is a great asset on any application. An unpaid internship might also be perfect for a student who needs a more flexible schedule due to a personal or family situation. That said, research shows that college students who take unpaid internships tend to have the same experience and GPA as those who take paid ones, but that their monetary offers upon graduation are considerably lower, assuming they even receive them. In fact, many unpaid internships are menial-task based, which means that they cannot be classified as “educational” and consequently in some states have been ruled illegal and are now completely banned within some industries.
We hope this helps you decide on your summer plans. In any case, exploring different fields is a valuable way to expose yourself to potential career paths, and to discover a professional niche to pursue at college and beyond!