Can’t Afford To Work An Unpaid Internship? Here Are 5 Alternatives

The key to scoring a post-graduation job? Lots and lots of experience.

Back in the day, an “entry level job” meant no prior experience required. All you needed was decent work ethic and a college diploma.

But today’s job market is a completely different world. College graduates are expected to have flashy resumes padded with jobs, honors, and extracurricular activities. While a part time gig at a local restaurant is definitely a great way to make a little spending money, employers are searching your resume to see some real, hands-on experience in your desired industry.

And that means internships.

Internship experiences are tremendously beneficial because these temporary positions give students a pretty clear picture of what their future job might be like.

The downside? Internships are often unpaid.

This poses a major problem for students who want to work in industries that are incredibly centralized. Because most big-name brands and companies have their headquarters based in one location in a major city, small town students in fields like journalism and fashion run into financial troubles when searching for internships.

Although it’s a bummer to work long hours for no pay, an unpaid internship isn’t as much of a sacrifice for college girls living in New York, Chicago or Los Angeles because they don’t have to spend the money to uproot themselves for a job in a different city. Students living in small college towns, on the other hand, have no choice but to travel and essentially pay big bucks to work for free.

It’s become quite the dilemma for students already drowning in thousands and thousands of dollars in debt: if you want to get a job, you need an internship. But if you want an internship, you need to pay up.

I myself have held four internship positions, and only one of the four was paid (and that’s after I put in six months of working for the company for free). While I can’t stress enough how grateful I am for everything these positions have taught me, my internships admittedly put a huge dent in my pocket.

It’s clear that internships are now sadly considered a “luxury” that not all college women can afford.

But hope is not lost. There are plenty of ways that a college girl can boost her resume without breaking the bank. If you need some relevant experience but can’t afford to work an unpaid internship, consider these five alternatives:

Increase Your Campus Involvement

For many girls, jetting off to LA or NYC for an entire semester simply isn’t an option. Luckily college campuses are full of pseudo-internship opportunities. Keep an eye out for clubs or events that help you get a step closer to achieving your goals. See yourself as the next Anna Wintour? Sign up to work for your campus’ fashion mag. Dream of creating your own clothing line? Get a group of budding designers together and put on a runway show at your school.

You don’t necessarily need an internship to gain experience in your field. You can fill your resume with various activities and leadership positions that complement your degree.

Lock Down A Related Side Hustle

Side hustles are great because they give students an easy way to make some extra money without having to squeeze a full time job into a packed schedule. But the very best part? You can choose a side hustle that relates to your career goals. If you love to write, consider freelancing. If you want to break into the fashion industry, work as a stylist’s assistant. These side gigs are just as resume worthy as internships and they come with the bonus of extra cash.

Even if you absolutely have to have a formal internship to meet a graduation requirement, you can save the money from your side hustle to help pay for any expenses that might come along with your future internship.

Pack Your Schedule With Hands-On Classes

Internships are deemed “invaluable” because they give students a first-hand chance to learn what skills are necessary to succeed in their industry and set themselves apart from other applicants. But students often have opportunities to learn these same desired skills in their coursework. Employers and job coordinators are genuinely interested in the classes you are taking so don’t be afraid to highlight any relevant courses in your resume. You’ll impress the hiring manager big time if you mention you mastered InDesign in your magazine production class or know HTML coding from your web design course.

Network On Campus

One perk of interning is the opportunity to meet and communicate with industry professionals.

But who says you have to leave campus to network with successful workers in your field? Attend networking events. Utilize your alumni database. Chat with professors during office hours. Send out a few cold emails.

There are so many ways to network without having to subject yourself to a full semester of free labor. Take advantage of them.

Limit Your Internship Search To “Paid Only”

You’re allowed to be picky. If you believe unpaid internships are total scams, just know that you’re not alone. As one Forbes article points out, “by no means will an unpaid internship guarantee students a career upon completion.” You won’t fall behind if you choose to pass up an internship because it’s unpaid. You’re simply being selective.

And what employer wouldn’t be interested in a woman who knows what she wants and how much she’s worth?

Image Via Amelia Kramer

Maria Fischer

Contributor, Ohio University Major: Journalism Major Specializing in Media Arts Her heart belongs to: Cosmopolitan, The Weeknd, a large glass of red wine and celebrity babies You can find her: Instagram stalking Food Network stars

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