Steven Vibar, looking for more real-world business experience, applied to a number of summer internships. Faced with limited choices, he reluctantly accepted an unpaid position in D.C. Despite his initial hesitation, Steven considers his internship, albeit unpaid, a valuable experience.
Over the summer, I worked for the human rights organization InterAction in Washington D.C. At first, I was skeptical about accepting an unpaid position, but I reasoned any experience was good experience. After all, my resume was thin and options were limited – I never heard back from many of the other positions I applied for. The location (I was going to be in the city!) and flexible schedule were also compelling.
Officially, I was the Executive Office Intern, and, as such, had to know how to do just about everything. I had to create expense reports and database spread sheets, provide research assistance for our members, schedule appointments, set up meetings, and greet clients. But I didn’t have previous experience with any of those tasks; so on the first day of work I was ready to learn on the fly and make mistakes.
At first, I was in the “bullpen” with the rest of the interns. The “bullpen” was a room of ten cubicles, five on either side. There were no windows, just a faulty air conditioner. And, in the beginning weeks, the room was filled with the silence of ten strangers. Eventually we, the interns, found a common ground: that none of us was getting paid. We broke the silence joking over our financial woes. As the summer continued, I grew more comfortable with the position and was happy to be keeping busy and contributing to the organization.
I’d advise any intern to embrace a positive attitude, flexibility, and a willingness to make mistakes. And, although not getting paid can be discouraging, I’d stress that all internships are worthwhile. After all, you’re earning real-world experiences. I finished my internship having met amazing people and learning a ton. So, if you’re deciding whether or not to accept an unpaid position, I say, do it!
If you are looking for internships in human rights or advocacy, search Idealist.org and make a MyUCS account to access the Internships-USA database. For more internship information, visit our internship page or read the first post in this series.