No matter if you’re pushing through classes or enjoying a much-needed break, let’s take a sec to get into a taboo topic that we hear about all the time but don’t necessarily like: unpaid internships. Nobody with good sense actually sees the value in working for free, right? Well, that’s not always the case. I got the run down from a few pros in journalism, IT and media who gave me the real about being an unpaid intern. Pay attention and you might learn something.
Brittany Forrest is a video production specialist at STL TV in St. Louis. She also spends her time working as a street team member for Entercom Radio (formerly CBS Radio). Brittany was an unpaid intern at NBC affiliate WTHR-13 and STL TV. Check out her advice for people thinking about a similar path.
TrueStar.Life: How did being an unpaid intern help you gain experience?
Brittany Forrest: It made me a marketable journalist. In this digital era, it is important to have knowledge of all aspects of multimedia. It gives you the chance to learn everything. Even things that may not be of interest to you will be a useful skill in the long run. It is hard as a broke college student to accept an unpaid opportunity, but those are usually the most rewarding experiences.
Carlyle Howard Jr. is a creative coordinator at CompTIA. Before breaking into the non-profit IT industry, he interned in graphic design and marketing during his senior year of college.
TSL: To what degree did your unpaid internship help you secure a mentor/grow your professional network?
Carlyle Howard Jr: My unpaid internship really helped me grow my professional network. My college advisor and one of my marketing professors (both I still speak to today) really gave me great advice and recommendations for getting into the graphic design industry post-graduation.
Kenny Humble is the CEO of Humble Productions. His company focuses on music, photography, videography, graphic design and more. He has worked on the set of a hit show on FOX as well. Here is Kenny’s message to students.
TSL: What advice would you give to students before accepting any unpaid internship?
Kenny Humble: Take the time to think about everything you want to learn. Write all of your ideas on paper. Try to find the best internship that will help you reach success. Do all the research you need to on the internship before you decide to move forward.
There you have it! Forrest, Howard, and Humble were able to benefit from their opportunities even though they didn’t get a check. Remember these pro tips to help you decide if an unpaid internship will help you achieve your goals.
By Marilyn Koonce, Northern Illinois University Alumna