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Jobs vs. Unpaid Internships

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Jobs vs. Unpaid Internships

As a young person in high school or college, you are under immense pressure from your parents, schools, and even peers, to engage in the job market.

Your immediate reaction probably leads you to consider one of two options: you can either get a paid job or an internship.

Of course, the expectations for high school students and college students differ. Internships give college students an opportunity to work in a field they are interested in, and could even give them a leg up when applying for jobs. High school students, on the other hand, probably aren’t thinking as much about their future career ambitions, and would prefer a paycheck to industry experience.

Nevertheless, there are benefits of both jobs and internships for college and high school students.

Internships, while usually unpaid, look excellent on your resume.

Internship experience suggests that you are hard working, ambitious, and skilled. After all, you did work for free, simply to gain experience! Internships can also connect you with powerful people and future employers. Even if you don’t get a full-time job from your internship, your supervisor will undoubtedly give you a great recommendation (if you work hard). Every employer is someone who could endorse you on LinkedIn or serve as a professional reference for an eventual full-time job search. Recruiters often check out LinkedIn profiles for recommendations, and they sometimes want to talk to a former manager. This can make thediffference between getting a good offer or not.

Internships also give you a chance to test drive your major or career goals.

Many children fantasize about what they want to be when they “grow up.” An internship is a perfect opportunity to provide a glimpse into your adult life. For example, you may realize after interning at a hospital that you do not want to be a doctor or a nurse. As a high school student, this gives you extra time to think about your interests, and ultimately, your major.

Assuming you are deciding between an unpaid internship and a job, the most obvious pro of the latter is money.

Depending on a student’s financial needs, an unpaid position could be entirely out of the question. While some entry level jobs for high school or college students may not be the most rewarding in the future, they certainly teach you the basic rules and procedures for being an employee and working in a company setting. Many post-graduate employers don’t want to have to teach new hires the basics of professionalism: getting to work on time, being able to take direction, and having a great work ethic. If a teen is able to get a job that involves real responsibilities- doing computer work, completing projects, and so on- a future empplyer will see that this individual has a strong foundation as a young professional.

My first job as a receptionist at a hair salon, for example, does not have anything to do with my current profession, but taught me the importance of customer service, phone correspondence, basic accounting and retail skills. Not to mention, I got a respectable paycheck every two weeks, and learned the value of money.

Paid Internships.

If the thought of an unpaid internship or working retail horrifies you, you could find an opportunity that is the best of both worlds. A paid internship is ideal for any student− not only do you get career experience, but also a paycheck. Many colleges also offer academic credit or stipends for internships. Make sure to find out about these opportunities in advance, as you will have to apply for a stipend or credit.

Whether you opt for an unpaid internship, a paid job opportunity, or get lucky and land a paid internship, you will learn invaluable life-long skills. Be sure to think about your future career aspirations, and if internship or job experience is essential to get a job after college. Don’t forget about your personal financial needs− every student is different. Ultimately, whether you decide on an unpaid internship or a job, obtaining work experience is a great opportunity for teens to accomplish many important goals simultaneously.

Adadpted from Hilary Dobel

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