Should You Accept a Free Internship?
Internships are a great way to get your foot in the door of a company, to demonstrate your skills, and to experience a real working environment in your area of study. The flip side is that a lot of internships are unpaid positions. Some nefarious companies even use unpaid internships as a way to get free help. The question is, should you accept a free internship?
Ask For References
Don’t be shy about asking for references from previous unpaid interns. If the company has nothing to hide, they’ll be willing to give you one or two people to contact. Then you can ask those people if they felt the free internship offered value in other ways, or if they felt they were just being used for their free work skills.
Do You Have a Paid Job Offer?
If you have a paid job offer, the free internship is less appealing. You can get everything and more from a paid job as you would get from working for free as an intern. Paid jobs help you pay the bills, whereas a free internship will keep you relying on parents or a spouse for financial support. In this example, the paid job offer is the better choice.
Ask About Perks
When a company is asking you to work for free as an intern, they should offer some perks to compensate you in other ways. Ask if you get perks like; getting the employee discount, getting on their group insurance plan, getting free beverages and snacks like the other employees, etc. Perks will help you to feel more valued, and you shouldn’t hesitate to ask for them.
Find Out Where the Internship Could Lead
Ask the company if they’d be willing to offer you full-time employment after the internship if you meet their standards. If they say yes, get it in writing, as well as the offered salary. This ensures that you are working toward a tangible, solid goal instead of just working for free.
Finally, you might want to keep looking for a paid internship instead of a free internship. There are some out there, though they are more competitive to get into.