Paid vs. Pro Bono and Other Options: A Student’s Guide to Getting an Internship

Ginger Abbot

Oct 25, 2019
full-time-vs-part-time

As early professional training experiences, internships offer a plethora of opportunities for students just starting out in their fields. An internship can help you gain career expertise and get your foot in the door at your dream company. It will aid in the development of soft skills like teamwork and problem-solving. If you score a paid position, it can even help you fund your higher education.

How
do you select the right internship? Are paid opportunities always superior to
pro bono versions? How long should you intern for, and are there any pitfalls
to avoid? Read on to learn more.

1. Paid vs. Unpaid Internships

The first question to ask yourself when making this determination is, “Can I afford to take an unpaid position?” Unfortunately, many internships in the arts and communication fields offer only a tiny stipend — if they extend any at all. Remember, everyone has the same 24 hours in a day. If you’re already juggling a full-time job with your college coursework, you won’t get the most out of your unpaid experience. You risk your grades slipping as a result — and if you rely on a scholarship to help with tuition, this could jeopardize your future.

Paid
internships are more competitive than unpaid posts, so remain flexible. If you
miss a paid opportunity during the school year, consider a part-time, unpaid
position during your winter or summer break. That way, you can continue to work
an additional part- or full-time job while gaining experience in your field.

2. Part-Time vs. Full-Time

Full-time
internships offer a host of benefits — if you have the time. You get to tackle more
challenging projects
instead of sticking to administrative tasks. And if you take on such a
position while school is out — or if you earn college credits for your work —
you can focus your intentions to make the most out of the experience.

Part-time
internships come in handy if you take part in multiple extracurricular activities.
You usually have more flexibility in your schedule, meaning you can take off to
attend a track meet or game. The downside is, you don’t get to immerse yourself
fully in your work. However, part-time posts can lead to full-time careers once
you get your degree. If you find a company you adore working with, go for it!

3. Local vs. Somewhere New

Logistically,
it’s more accessible and affordable to take an internship close to home or
school. However, traveling to a new city pulls you out of
your campus comfort zone
and opens your eyes. If you opt to take a position abroad, you get to
learn about a new culture and improve your mastery of a foreign tongue.

If
finances are your primary concern, consider staying close to home. However, if
you have the means, travel. You’ll increase your understanding of diversity. If
you’re considering relocating after graduation, taking a position in the city
informs you how you like living there before you make the final leap.

4. A Related Field vs. an Unrelated One

You
might wonder, “Why would I want to take an internship in a field unrelated
to my major?” Doing so can broaden your career prospects considerably. If
you take a post at a small startup, you’re more likely to jump right
into your work

instead of spending weeks training. This shock helps you develop resilience and
problem-solving skills. Plus, if you enjoy the job, you’ve gotten in at the
ground level. You have nowhere to go but up at such an organization.

Maybe
you’ve studied to become an English teacher, but you’ve realized you adore
writing more than interacting with children. Consider taking on an internship
at a marketing firm. Perhaps your coursework has prepared you to become a
database administrator, but you want to try your hand at app development. Now
is the time to branch out before you accept an ongoing career position.

Tips for Applying for Your Internship

Applying for an internship is similar to applying for any other job — with one exception. While online job boards often feature already filled positions, they do cater to entry-level seekers. You can take advantage of sites like LinkedIn or look for online student-centered resources to find suitable internships.

Check
with your family
and friends

about opportunities, as well. Sometimes, companies don’t advertise all
available opportunities — but employees know about them. You can ask detailed
questions about company culture if you know someone who already works there.

When
you apply, follow the directions on the forms precisely. If the organization
requests three references, provide them. Always triple-check your spelling and
grammar. Have a trusted friend or family member review your resume and
application with fresh eyes.

Using an Internship to Further Your Career
Aspirations

The right internship can launch a successful career. By following the tips above, you can find the perfect opportunity and kickstart your professional development.

Written By