Unpaid Internships can still be beneficial

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Unpaid Internships can still be beneficial

Kimberly Wilson, Opinion Editor

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Internships are widely considered to be an invaluable opportunity for college students. They can provide students with a first-hand look at the ins and outs of the career they’re pursuing.

A paid internship at an industry leading company would be any college student’s dream job. But as long as you make sure you’re getting the most out of the experience, an unpaid internship can be just as beneficial.

For argument’s sake, you could work a regular job that has no relation to what you’re studying. But landing an unpaid internship with a company in your desired field could be a much more astute decision long term. Choosing to advance your chosen career by taking an unpaid internship could open crucial doors.

Many companies are known to give interns menial tasks, so–especially if you do take an unpaid internship–advocating for yourself while on the job becomes even more important. Whenever you can, ensure you’re marketing yourself. Let people know what you have to contribute to the company. Realize you have the agency to make the internship worthwhile.

It’s important to research the company you’d be interning for when considering accepting an unpaid internship as well. Try to find out how they’ve treated interns in the past and what interns have said about their time working for the company.

If not earning a salary is not an option for you, finding a part-time internship could be a solution to your problem. Find out if the company would be a good fit for you in terms of the hours you’d be working. A part-time internship would give you free time you could use to work another job if necessary.

The new guidelines for unpaid internships implemented by the Department of Labor also make unpaid internships a better gamble. The guidelines, ratified earlier this year, consist of what is called a ‘Primary Beneficiary’ test.

According to an article by Edward J. Easterly on the National Association of Colleges and Employers’ website, the test “looks at who was the “primary beneficiary” of the internship—the company or the student.”

The article goes on to state, “If the company is the “primary beneficiary,” then the internship must be paid. If, on the other hand, the student is the “primary beneficiary,” then the internship may be unpaid.”

The primary beneficiary test includes a list of factors that determine who the beneficiary of the internship is. One of these factors states the training given during the internship should be similar to training given at an educational institution, to assure students’ time is usefully spent.

Fortunately, most internships offered today are paid. But if you happen upon one that looks interesting, it being unpaid shouldn’t immediately deter you from applying. Especially with the new regulations, unpaid internships can prove their worth by providing students with hands-on, real-world experience and establishing indispensable connections.