I understand the title of this blog post sounds ridiculous. Let me promise you, I am a poor college student who will do almost anything for a buck just like everyone else, but I also have had two unpaid internships and worked three summers at a camp with minimal pay, and I want to share how these jobs can be even better than a paycheck.
They are a great place to start. If your resume leave a little bit to be desired, unpaid internships can be wonderful launch pad.
Often with internships employers are looking for people with potential to grow, not people who are already at the top. They want someone who is ready to learn and might be able to move up into higher positions in the future. As far as camps go, if you have an interest in hanging out in the outdoors with a bunch of kids all day, and you can be positive and hardworking, you can probably find a good place to work.
You learn a ton. Both with internships and camps one of the best things is how much you learn. Unpaid interns are often looked at as “student workers” who are trying to learn to get better at their future career path. Because of this, higher ups at your workplace are more likely to have things for you just so you can learn. For instance at my government internship my boss is organizing days for us to go to different government departments so I can meet other people in the field and see how various government offices in Duluth run. At camp there is so much learning that happens, since camp is a learning experience for kids there are always little tidbits of fun info you can pick up from your fellow staff and even campers.
Dress codes are probably looser.
Now this one isn’t necessarily true across the board but for camps it definitely is. Although at camp you are expected to always dress appropriately, what you wear is pretty open. I know I’ve spent many a summer’s day in overalls, purple windpants, wolf tee shirts, or sometimes, just a swimsuit. Obviously I can’t go to my internship in my swimsuit with my overalls on top (yes I’ve done that at camp) but I am not expected to buy a very high class fancy wardrobe for my semester-long internship. Yes, I dress up to work, but I don’t need to invest in 13 Hillary Clinton-style pants suits.
Hours are more flexible.
Interns are usually not expected to have their lives revolve around their job. When I did an unpaid internship on a campaign, I was still able to go to two different summer camps and a family reunion without a problem. I also had a back injury and was able to recover without having to worry about rushing back into doorknocking before I could handle it. In my current internship I have a hour requirement in order to get class credit, but as long as I get my hours I am pretty much able to craft my schedule any way I would like. For camps, it can be harder to take a day off here or there but if planned well enough ahead, I have always found I have been able to come to a schedule compromise.
None of the things I wrote about are a guarantee, there are some internships and low paying starting jobs that require you to buy a uniform and and very strict with scheduling. These are, however, common factors of “starter” opportunities like unpaid internships and low paying jobs. I wrote this not to say every unpaid internship is amazing and you should always work for free, but to remind you to not rule out an opportunity simply based on a dollar sign (or lack there of).
Of Possible Interest:
- Internships (our Pinterest board)
- Boost Your Career in College (our Pinterest board)
- Unpaid Internships
- Finding the Perfect Internship