Recent Grads in Unpaid Internships: Should You Stress?

One major complaint among young professionals is the limited availability of entry-level positions post-grad. Many grads take on unpaid internships because they simply can’t find entry-level work. I’ve heard it asked time and time again: “How am I supposed to gain experience if every position requires experience?”  

When I published this post about the importance of flexible jobs for college students with unpaid internships, a commenter was concerned about the lack of attention given to post-grads facing unpaid internships. While you should be making every effort to gain experience while you’re already in college (summer internships can be the best way to do this), many graduates still end up in positions as unpaid interns despite already having their degree in hand. This seems unfair to many young professionals, who are often also facing crushing student loan debt.

Rest assured that graduates who intern after college have nothing to stress about. In fact, for recent graduates, unpaid internships are common, and can often lead to a job–in 2011, 61.2 percent of employers offered their interns full-time positions. A few reasons you shouldn’t stress about unpaid, post-grad internships:

You No Longer Have to Juggle an Internship with Classes

Plenty of college students know it’s a struggle to balance an internship with college course work. Many end up feeling overworked and stressed. With college out of the way, you can throw all your effort into your internship (and likely a paying gig too…but at least no classes in the mix!) and prove yourself at a reputable company.

You’ll Open the Door for Opportunities

A good internship should provide you with valuable experience and skills development, while also providing opportunities for you to create lasting relationships with professionals in your industry. Take advantage of every opportunity to network within the company you’re interning for–that includes attending corporate events, speaker series, and even company happy hour.

You Can Talk to Your Boss About the Situation

If you’d love to work for the company you’re interning for full-time (or heck, even part-time), feel no shame in asking your boss or manager about your future with the company once your internship is complete. You deserve honesty and openness, and as a post-grad, your boss should understand recent graduates need to begin starting a foundation for their careers. Even if you don’t get the answer you would’ve hoped for, internships are valuable tools for furthering your career, networking, and building skills regardless.

You Don’t Have to Go Broke

Finances are perhaps the biggest issue when it comes to unpaid internships, particularly post-grad. Many young workers are lucky enough to have the help of their parents to cover expenses, but others aren’t as privileged. You may have to live at home or work a second job to add some cash to your pocket. Look for jobs with flexible hours, or opportunities to make more than minimum wage–consider babysitting or tutoring at a local college or high school.

One option I’ve personally found useful is to take out a bit of extra student loan money to cover any expenses you may incur during an unpaid internship. Although you may not want to add to your debt, it can be a helpful cushion while you get on your feet post-graduation.

Don’t let yourself get discouraged if unpaid internship positions are the only ones you can find as a post-grad. Remember, your situation as an unpaid intern won’t be forever, and you’ll be able to acquire transferrable skills for getting your career started.

Recent graduates, did you have to take on an unpaid internship? How did you handle it?


For this post, YouTern thanks our friends at ComeRecommended!


About the Author: Julie Mastrine is a senior at Penn State, majoring in public relations and minoring in Spanish. She has gained experience across a range of settings, including print journalism, public relations, nonprofits, blogging, social media and promotions. Follow Julie on Twitter!



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