Guest Blogger: Caroline Albro
This past summer, I worked at a paid summer job – you can read about my experience here! I could have chosen to work in an unpaid internship position, but I ultimately chose to gain valuable work experience while earning money for a variety of reasons. Here’s why I did it.
The work that I performed as a paid employee at my summer job was purposeful. Rather than getting coffee for higher-level employees or scribbling notes in office meetings, I spent my days coordinating employee schedules – work that actually made an impact at the organization. This purpose in my work gave me a sense of pride, motivating me to keep working even when I didn’t enjoy some aspects of the job. Additionally, I received positive feedback from my fellow employees. Some would come into my office to thank me for my hard work or let me know that I was doing a good job. These little interactions definitely contributed to my sense of purpose, reminding me that I was doing more than insignificant grunt work this summer. Furthermore, I feel like I learned valuable skills that I can translate into future professional opportunities. My ability to effectively organize over one hundred staff schedules will come in handy when applying for future jobs.
Of course, earning money is an obvious benefit of working at a paid job. In preparation to study abroad this year, I wanted to save money, so I put the majority of my paycheck into my savings account each week. I felt financially independent and valued as I watched my savings grow over the course of the summer.
The people at my job were kind, funny, and optimistic, getting me through the difficult parts of the job. The friendships that I made will continue to develop in the years to come, as everyone at my summer job viewed each other on equal terms. While I had a boss, no one was “above” another and we all respected each other. In other internship positions, the hierarchy between interns and other employees can create tension. However, my work environment fostered equal relationships among staff, which is something I came to cherish throughout my time at the organization.
Benefits of an Unpaid Internship
I’m glad I chose to work in a paid summer job this year, but there are also significant benefits to working in an unpaid summer internship. Summer internships can be immensely valuable in fields where paid jobs are not available for undergraduates or recent graduates. You have the opportunity to dabble in the work without diving into the career. At major organizations and in competitive industries, unpaid internships are sometimes the only route to your dream job. Additionally, many colleges offer academic credit for unpaid internships. If you’re hoping to graduate early or get ahead, an unpaid internship could be helpful.
While a paid internship sounds ideal, often times we don’t have that option. If you’re choosing between a paid job and an unpaid internship, it’s important to keep these various factors in mind, especially your financial situation. By evaluating the importance of earning money over the summer, your decision may become clearer. But don’t be reluctant to take a paid summer job – these opportunities can still give you valuable professional lessons while generating a steady income.
Caroline Albro attends Scripps College in Claremont, California. Originally from the Bay Area, Caroline is ditching her California roots to spend the year studying abroad in London this year. Outside of her academic pursuits in sociology and economics, she enjoys spending time outdoors, reading, and has recently taken up embroidery.