Internships: Unpaid May Payoff

Internships: Unpaid May Payoff

Many students ignore unpaid summer internships. Let’s face it, you need the money, and it just seems wrong to work and not get paid, right? Yes, but the following reasons convince many students to accept one (and many of them now work in renewables!):

  1. If this is your first internship, you have a lot to learn “beyond the classroom”. The company will be teaching you that and that’s costly (to them) and valuable (to you).
  2. If this is your first internship in renewables, it is huge. They’re hard to get, and it is the single most important thing you can do to get a job in RE upon graduation.
  3. A good internship will give you knowledge,skills and credentialing. You’re paying your school for this now! Getting it free beats that.
  4. If your alternative is not working this summer (or taking classes), an UI is a better option in most cases.
  5. No one says “paid” internship on a resume or LinkedIn. The optics of paid and unpaid internships are the same; they open future doors.

Now, not all unpaid internships are worth it. Some should be avoided, especially if you have a decent plan B. Here are some questions you need to ask:

  1. Have previous students worked in the posted position? Can you talk to them to hear their opinion of the role?
  2. Is the unpaid internship just a glorified sales “cold calling” role? Your development here will be narrow – largely limited to toughening you up.
  3. Who will be your supervisor, how much time will they spend with you – doing what? Will he/she serve as a future reference?
  4. Is there a training program? How does it work?
  5. What skills, knowledge and experience will you have gained at the end of the internship?

Bottom line, an internship is more like taking a class than working in a job. If it improves you professionally, it’s worth it whether or not it improves you financially.