update from the reader whose dad was frustrated about her unpaid internship

Remember the letter from the reader whose father was frustrated that she hadn’t found a paying job yet?  She was working in an unpaid internship that she enjoyed, but her father thought any paid work would be better for her resume. Here’s her update.

I started getting interviews for jobs in my field in early July. Although I’d been sending out applications since about March, I guess it took that long to get enough experience for entry level. While interviewing, I found that hiring managers and HR were impressed with the fact that I had stayed at my internship longer than the required four weeks for my program.

I ended up accepting a position as a coordinator of communications at a non-profit. I started in early August, and am really enjoying it so far. It is a bilingual position so I’m using my undergraduate education in French and I’ll be working with schools, so the education degree will pay off as well. The money isn’t great, but I will be able to support myself fully and save a bit by the end. It meant moving to a new city, and I’m really excited about the change.

I have a one-year contract and will not likely be rehired at the end (I’m covering for someone who will be taking a leave of absence) but I will have a lot of opportunities to network. I feel that was something my internship was lacking – as I was interning at a university, I worked with a lot of professors and researchers and this did not present a lot of chances to meet people who were in a position to hire me for anything else.

I do wish that I had cut back a bit at my internship and found a part-time job in retail or something similar. My bank account is a bit tight right now and the city that I’ve moved to for this new job is more expensive than the last one I lived in. However, although I sent out a few applications in June and July before accepting this position, I didn’t get any interviews for those jobs. (Living in a university town over the summer means that a lot of places had hired in April and May.)

Overall, I really am glad that I stuck it out at the internship because I feel that my portfolio is much more impressive than a lot of other recent grads and it definitely helped during my interviews to be able to say that I was enthusiastic about the field and could demonstrate that with the internship.

Thanks to all of the readers for interesting feedback as well! I feel like a lot of parents commented who have had similar experiences with their adult-children, and I hope that this demonstrates that unpaid internships can be beneficial in the end.

{ 7 comments… read them below }

  1. Anonymous

    Thanks for the update, and congratulations!!

    I think that grads underestimate the importance of an internship, whether paid or unpaid. It gets you solid work experience in your field that not only looks great on your resume/CV, but is a great learning experience.

    In other countries it is customary to work an entry-level professional job throughout university, so it gets young people solid work experience. Often university classes are held in the evenings or really early in the morning (like 7am) so people can work a professional job during the day.

    This, of course, is lacking in the US, so I always recommend that people take internships when possible if they are finding it challenging to get a full time, paid position. Good for you for sticking it out and trusting your instincts!

    And again, congrats!

  2. Nodumbunny

    Thanks for the update! Even in the much better economy I enjoyed when I was first starting out, I did several internships early on and look back on them as invaluable for the experience and the networking – seriously, those relationships were instrumental in my career for years and years. Good luck!

  3. Other Jamie

    Yay! Congratulations! It’s such a relief to hear success stories like this! :D

    I was in the same boat — I basically stayed on at my grad school work study job for about a year after graduation, but unpaid. Best experience ever (in terms of work to do and coworkers and workplace .< Oy.) Also many of my friends didn't understand why not taking the first random thing that came along wasn't necessarily in my best interest.

    The best part was my parents finally (mostly) understood after I had an interview at a crazy place, was told the salary would be $50K, then was offered $35K, and they actually supported me in turning it down. (Also, the report of screaming matches with HR didn't sound like a fun environment.)

    Now I have a (temporary, but wonderful) job, and I think they MIGHT finally be on my side.

    Yay! So glad. Thanks for the update, and good luck in the new city! Hope you can save up a little so things won't be so tight soon.

    1. Other Jamie

      …uh… it ate some of the stuff in the second paragraph:

      Best experience ever (in terms of work to do and coworkers and workplace), and I loved that job! My two bosses still keep in touch frequently and send job posts my way, and we stick together at professional conferences. (Why do my parents think job hunting hasn’t changed in 30 years?! Oy.)

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