how do I tell an employer I’d need a stipend to do an internship?

A reader writes:

A connection of mine, through my alma mater, sent on my resume for an internship gig. A couple days later, the internship guy (Bob) contacted me for an interview the following week. Yesterday I went on this interview, and he gave me the internship right on the spot, to start next Wednesday. It would be part time, three days a week, 15 hours/week.

The thing is, during the interview he said he wasn’t sure if they’d be able to offer me the usual stipend for the internship. The reason is that this company has an agreement with my alma mater regarding supplying interns/giving preferential treatment to my alma mater. My school gives them interns, and they almost always hire them. The stipend, $500/month, is for those interns.

However, I am a different case because I already graduated. Bob took my resume and interviewed me knowing this. At the interview he had mentioned, however, that this special situation (of hiring an alumnus as opposed to a student) might change the stipend agreement, and Bob’s company may not be able to pay me (but they’d still “hire” me as an unpaid intern). But he is not positive.

I want to follow up with my usual post-interview thank you email. In this email I want to address this issue, because while I would love love LOVE this opportunity, I cannot do it without getting paid. As someone on the job hunt, I cannot afford spending nearly $200/month in public transportation without any sort of financial incentive. Also, due to the transportation times, I would not really be able to take a job for the mornings of the internship days, because although it’s 5 hours/day for the internship, it’s 9 hours including transportation.

Basically, I want to know how I should approach this. I know I definitely should raise my concern before I start, it’s just that I don’t know how. I don’t want to come off as “you better pay me or I’ll turn down this offer” but really, that’s the case. What should I do?

Well, first, are you sure you can do it for a stipend of $300/month after transportation costs? That is very little. And yes, I know it’s a stipend, not an actual wage, but make sure you’re doing the math on this — you’re saying you can’t do this unpaid, but you actually will be basically doing this unpaid, even if you get the stipend.

And on top of that, are you sure you want a part-time internship that’s basically unpaid that will require you to commute 4 hours round-trip every day? Because, um, that’s a little bit insane, unless this internship is going to open doors for you like no other internship ever has in the history of everyone.

But let’s say that you want it anyway, so that I can answer your actual question.

There is nothing wrong with coming across as “if you don’t pay me what I’m asking for, I won’t take the job.”  That is very, very normal. That is normal when the salary being discussed is in the six figures, and it’s sure as hell normal when you’re talking about a basically unpaid internship. Discussing money is not a taboo topic when you’re considering taking a job — it is a normal part of adult life, and I can promise you that the internship coordinator will think it’s normal too.

So send him an email and just be straightforward:  “I’m really interested in the job and would love to work with you, but my ability to accept it would depend on being able to receive the stipend.”

Straightforward, direct, done.

But really, give some serious thought to why you’re thinking about taking on a four-hour round-trip commute for an internship.

{ 85 comments… read them below }

  1. AnotherAlison*

    I’m thinking the commute isn’t 4 hrs. Sounds like the bus doesn’t come midday, so she’s stuck getting there before she’s scheduled to work.

      1. AnotherAlison*

        Right, but while living 2 hrs from a job is not easily solved, if this could potentially be arranged to a 2×7.5 hr schedule instead, the commute time problem could go away. (i.e. since you can’t pay me the stipend, could you offer any flexibility on the schedule.)

        1. Lisa*

          It may be worth it. I would commute that much to work at:

          The White House
          Anywhere in Europe as long as I could live there!

            1. Amouse*

              Ok I gotta ask and I’m sorry if this is a dumb question but as a relatively new reader here I keep seeing this chocolate teapot reference over and over again. Is this a thing? An AAM inside joke? Where did this come from?

              1. Jamie*

                A poster who has Chocolate Teapots in her screen name started using it as a fictional example for a company/product.

                And sometimes a stand-in for those things in examples is sorely needed – so others of us kind of adopted it as the fictional go-to reference.

                Also – in lighter moments we’ve petitioned Alison at various times to start an actual Chocolate Teapots Inc so we can come work for her and leave behind our current problems.

                Because working there is like an apocryphal utopia where management is reasonable, everyone acts like a grown-up, and no one eats stinky food or chews loudly.

                In other words it’s a forum reference that’s sometimes a joke and sometimes a really useful tool.

                1. Jamie*

                  I have no idea why I pluralized teapots. Twice.

                  Seriously, I can’t even blame autocorrect…just a brain malfunction.

                  Carry on.

                2. Jamie*

                  I would like to place a pre-order for that…

                  I would also totally buy an actual chocolate teapot. Not sure how useful it would be for hot tea, but I bet breaking off the handle and having a little snack would be yummy.

                3. Amouse*

                  haha OK thanks for explaining! And I would hope there would be actual chocolate teapots and chocolate of all kinds around at this company. At least my utopia definitely includes chocolate :-)

                  If you made a cute baby tee Alison I would definitely consider it.

                4. Amouse*

                  Since it’s apparently an analogy for something completely useless the slogan could be “Ask a Manager: Anything but a Chocolate Teapot” with a picture of a chocolate teapot with words bubbles if useful facts coming at as the steam from the spout. Sorry I get carried away sometimes.

                5. Amouse*

                  and the AAM girl logo in the center of the teapot. I can actually see it in my mind. Maybe I’ll send you a picture of this Alison. lol

                6. twentymilehike*

                  We need someone to design a Chocolate Teapots Inc. company t-shirt, and I’ll sell it here at cost.

                  Yes. Please.

                  I’m also down to order actual chocolate teapots. YUM.

                7. Sparky629*

                  While I do love chocolate teapots, I was really really intrigued by caramel coffee carafes.

                  That’s just a whole lot of sinful deliciousness in one package. :-)

                8. Jamie*

                  If Sparky keeps that up I’m going to start scouting locations for the plant.

                  And once again – now I’m hungry. Either I need to stop reading AAM or stop having dinner be the first thing I eat all day…you guys are killing me.

                9. Long Time Admin*

                  I’m thinking small (miniature) teapots filled with various and assorted liqueurs and wrapped in fancy foils.

                  The perfect gift!

                10. ChristineH*

                  I’d been wondering about the origins of this myself…thanks Jamie!

                  Dangit, now I want chocolate! lol

                11. NewReader*

                  Chocolate Teapots. THE perfect gift for a dear friend or family member that has EVERYTHING.

                  Worried about getting that special, unique wedding gift? Search no further. The Chocolate Teapot Company is here for you. Sign up today to reserve your Limited Edition White Chocolate Teapot. It will surely be a collector’s item.

                  Coming soon at Chocolate Teapots: Matching teacups and saucers.

                12. twentymilehike*

                  OH EngineerGirl, the links .. I’m DYING. For goodness sake, if you haven’t clicked her links, please do so.

                  Officially the best chocolate teapot post ever, IMO :)

                13. Another Emily*

                  I’ve always loved the Chocolate Teapot joke and this entire thread is the epitomy of awesome.

                  If you made a Chocolate Teapot Inc shirt, would you ship to Canada?

              2. Tee2072*

                It’s a very common expression here in the UK along with Chocolate Fire-guard. As in ‘he’s about as much use as a chocolate teapot.’

                Hmmm, t-shirts……. ::ponders::

                1. Jamie*

                  I had no idea it was a common expression in the UK.

                  Now every time I type it I’ll say it in my head in my best Jean Pargeter voice.

              3. Ask a Manager* Post author

                I realize this might entirely at odds with the concept, but I wonder if it melting implies something … less than competent about this company. Hmmm. Must ponder my entire premise here.

                1. Tmm*

                  The Chocolate Teapot is a book by British pastor David Lawrence. Haven’t read it but apparently it’s for young teens on how to get through school written from a religious POV.
                  Also as Tee says there’s a common expression “about as useful as a chocolate teapot” used when talking about someone who isn’t very competent or a thing which is useless.
                  Funny how the same phrase can have wildly disparate meanings depending upon which side of the Atlantic you are on. Lol. I would normally think a chocolate teapot would be a yummy treat!

                2. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  Quick update on the whole shirts idea! I’m going to put it on hold for right now, because I’m noticing a huge increase in the number of questions emailed to me that incorporate teapots … which while very amusing to me, is in some cases making it harder for me to understand some of the details of the questions! I suspect t-shirts would increase that phenomenon, so I’m going to put this on hold for right now :)

          1. 4-hour-er*

            I commuted for 4 hours a day to do an internship / go to college while living rent-free at my parent’s house for 2+ years. Sometimes the (awful) 4 hour commute is worth saving a ton of money. (Living with my parents for an extra 2 years on the other hand… may not have been worth it :) )

            1. OP*

              Yes, I am living with my parents. I am a recent grad, so options have been very slim pickens. Over the summer, I have literally applied to hundreds of jobs, and this is the first “job interview” that I’ve been invited too. And yes, I am customizing cover letters. And yes, I am reaching out to contacts. And yes I am following up on every job I apply to. No bites. Whatsoever.

      2. OP*

        The four hours is explained as this:
        I take the train from the suburbs to a major city.
        The train alone takes 40 mins. I have to leave the house 30 mins before the train to drive there, make sure I can park, pay for parking, and get on the train before it leaves, ensuring cushion for a traffic accident or blockage (you never know!).
        Once I arrive in the city, I take the bus or underground to the offices. That can take anywhere between 20 or 40 mins, depending on traffic in the city, the bus running on time, and amount of people getting on/off the bus at each stop. Just like the suburbs-to-city train, I have to allow a time cushion to ensure arriving on time. If I took a cab once I am in the city, it would be three times the price of my current commute on buses/trains.

        For the ride home, I do it all again, back to my house. Usually it’s a bit shorter because driving from the train to my house is shorter (without that extra time cushion) but sometimes it’s equal to the earlier commute because I’m waiting at the station for the train to leave to the suburbs.

        If I drove to the city directly during non-traffic, it’s 40 mins. During traffic, over an hour. And parking is an awful situation, not to mention gas costs.

        Every major city will have better job opportunities, especially in broadcast. I have job hunted in the suburbs with little to no luck (on even finding a related position). But in the city, it’s easy to find the jobs (but I am having trouble *getting* them).

  2. Kimberlee, Esq.*

    I agree with Alison about the next steps, but I feel it warrants adding that if you knew you wouldn’t take it unpaid, you should have said that at the interview. They could have found out, 100%, what the deal was, and in your offer stated whether it was unpaid or paid. I would be really unhappy to hear, after a start date had been set, that my intern starting on Wednesday will actually reject the position if there’s no stipend (granted, I would have found out for sure about the stipend and mentioned it in the offer letter, but still. That doesn’t change the fact that you should have made your intentions clear from the beginning!).

    If you’ve set a start date, they’ve probably rejected their other candidates. So if you now refuse, they’ve got to start the whole process again.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Oh, holy crap. I didn’t think the OP had accepted the offer yet. OP, if you’ve accepted, you need to contact them RIGHT NOW and clear this up. You cannot accept a job without having accepted the payment terms too.

      1. Kimberlee, Esq.*

        I might have been rushing to the conclusion that he had, too. I note that he said it “would start next Wednesday,” but I still think that if it’s an absolute, OP should have said so at the interview.

    2. Amouse*

      “I want to follow up with my usual post-interview thank you email. In this email I want to address this issue, because while I would love love LOVE this opportunity, I cannot do it without getting paid. “

      I think the OP is still at the post interview stage based on this blurb.

      1. fposte*

        Yeah, that’s confusing–I’m wondering if this was more of a “do you qualify” interview than a regular job kind, because the upcoming start date seems to suggest a done deal.

    3. OP*

      The thing is, prior to the interview, I wasn’t aware of this stipend thing and situation. I had to mull over it after the interview to come to the decision of “take stipend or don’t take internship.”

      I emailed him right after I read Alison’s advice.

  3. Carl*

    If the case is, “you better pay me or I’ll turn down this offer,” then that’s the case. Something you’ll have to learn is business is to speak up before it’s too late. I’ve been trampled on by many employers, especially with regards to pay. If they can pay less, they will; almost every time.

    If you can’t afford the commute, tell them so. If they really, really, want you there, $500/m, isn’t going to burn a whole in most any company’s pocket — they’ll find a way to pay for it.

    Now, don’t come off as rude by saying, “you better pay me or I’ll turn down this offer.” Just tell them straight up the truth. They’re a business, I’m sure they’ve been lied to plenty of times by their customers/clients, and other workers, so they’ll know if you’re being sincere.

    1. OP*

      It’s not a typical job. It’s not a job that they can dig up money to pay me for. It’s a public broadcasting gig, so the pay isn’t negotiable. I think it’s a take-it-or-leave-it sorta deal.

      I wrote to him thanking him for the interview and the opportunity, and saying my sincere opinion–that it would be a great offer–in addition to the comment Alison posted. I said I’d need to know if I’d get paid.

  4. Jamie*

    A quick google (because I was curious) shows an internship stipend is reportable income.

    And since my favorite thing is breaking down dollars into real money – that’s about $18.75 per day after taxes (500 less transportation expenses).

    I agree with Alison – this is basically unpaid even without the stipend. Also, being unavailable three days a week will really tie your hands in looking for a paying job – as you said you’re on the market.

    IMO if you can’t afford to do it for free, I don’t see how you can afford to do it for under $20 a day.

    1. twentymilehike*

      IMO if you can’t afford to do it for free, I don’t see how you can afford to do it for under $20 a day.

      It sounds like she’s not really trying to get paid, but rather not be out-of-pocket on transportation expenses. Someone below mentioned asking them if they’d at least cover travel expenses if they can’t do the stipend, and I agree that would be a reasonable conversation to have. At my company we have reimbursed for transportation generously, simply because someone spoke up and expressed a hardship. You never know if you don’t ask!

      1. Anonymous*

        “It sounds like she’s not really trying to get paid, but rather not be out-of-pocket on transportation expenses.”

        That’s what I was thinking too. I was able to take find a way to support myself–thanks, Mom!!!–the summer I did an unpaid internship in college (e.g. rent + food from mother dearest, everything else from savings), however, I grossly underestimated how much money I would need for transportation, lunch (brown-bagged) and coffee. While I didn’t mind working for free, I did mind having to pay to work for free.

        My organization now provides a full transportation stipend, during the course of the internship (as opposed to only providing it at the end of the internship), so that our interns won’t lose money simply getting to work.

    2. Danni*

      I assumed that the internship would cover her transportation costs at least? Because yeah, $500 a month isn’t going to go far, but if she already has a good living environment (parents or significant other) and doesn’t have many extra costs, then she might just need some money to cover transportation.

      1. OP*

        You are right, I live with my parents and therefore am not trying to keep myself afloat.

        It is more of an experience opportunity, so I am not expecting a high-paying gig. As I commented to someone else above, I have applied to hundreds of places, and this is the only bite I’ve had in 3 months.

    3. photodiplo*

      Her strategy could be that it is better to be doing something rather than being completely out of the job market and not making contacts, especially since employers like hiring people who already have jobs. If that is the case, I’d say she’s being quite smart.

  5. Hello Vino*

    I don’t where the OP is located, but a $500/month stipend is not much at all for living expenses and transportation. Also, 4-hours of commuting on a daily basis is going to be very rough. You’ll have to think this one through and decide if it’s really worth it. Personally, I would never commute 4-hours a day even with a competitive salary.

    Right after I graduated (2008), I accepted a summer internship with a $200/month stipend. In San Francisco. CRAZY, I know. Thankfully, my commute was only 30-minutes via public transportation, and I was sharing an apartment with my boyfriend. Strangely enough, I was also offered the internship position on the spot. It sucked that it was basically an unpaid internship, but it was an amazing learning experience. I got my foot in the door of very competitive industry at a time when my peers were struggling to find jobs.

  6. Anonymous*

    Even if there’s no stipend, maybe they’d be willing to cover your transportation costs if you explained how much you’d love to work for them but you can’t afford to be out of pocket by $200 per month for transportation.

  7. K.*

    And on top of that, are you sure you want a part-time internship that’s basically unpaid that will require you to commute 4 hours round-trip every day?
    Yeah, this was the first thing I thought. As I mentioned on a previous post, I did a 90-minute-each-way commute (more if public transportation got fouled up, which happened a fair amount as it was on a couple different forms) and it SUCKED. The job ended up being great, but I’d never do that commute again. And they paid me well! I honestly wouldn’t consider it for an unpaid gig unless it was guaranteed to lead to a great permanent job.

    But that’s me. There are some people who wouldn’t balk at two hours each way, and certainly OP knows her situation better than I do. If she can’t accept without the stipend, I agree that she’s well within her rights to say so.

    1. Jamie*

      Right – commute is huge for some people and not a factor for others.

      I personally don’t mind it and I do about 2.5-3 hours each day, however, that’s driving. I wouldn’t do that on public transportation, personally.

      I certainly wouldn’t do it for free…but then again I don’t do anything for free so I’m not the standard bearer on this. :)

      1. K.*

        Yeah, driving is different. And I would have been more OK with it if it had been ONE form of public transportation for 90 minutes each way. It was the fact that it was 90 minutes on multiple legs that made it so unpleasant. Although honestly, I think 4 hours round trip is simply too long. But again, that’s me. (My mom’s commute is 20 minutes on city streets and she hasn’t had more than a half-hour commute … maybe ever, now that I think about it. She was completely shocked at how much time I was spending getting to and from work.)

        1. ChristineH*

          “And I would have been more OK with it if it had been ONE form of public transportation for 90 minutes each way. It was the fact that it was 90 minutes on multiple legs that made it so unpleasant.”

          I completely empathize with you there. Not only is it tiring just to make all of those transfers, it also raises the likelihood of something fouling up at some point along the way. And I have no choice in the matter….I cannot drive.

          1. OP*

            Yes, my commute is car-train-bus/subway. It’s annoying. If it were straight car, it’s just too expensive, not to mention parking costs!

      2. Anon*

        I’m the opposite; I can sit on public transportation where I can read indefinitely (okay, I still don’t want to be on it for more than an hour a day, tops, but you know), but driving during rush hour completely destroys me.

      1. EM*

        This pretty much sums up my thoughts on why she would take an internship with a long commute. She probably has heard (from here as well as other sources) how tough it is for new graduates to find a job and figures that an internship is a way to get even a minimal amount of experience.

        1. K.*

          Yeah, I took the job with the long commute because I didn’t have the luxury of turning down work. And the work experience itself was great, it’s just that the commute sucked.

          I’m pretty cynical about unpaid internships in general, so that’s surely coloring my views.

        2. OP*

          Thing is, I keep hearing about how amazing internships are for experience and people want to hire people with internships, but I already have three internships under my belt (two while a student, one after graduation) that didn’t really lead to anything else.

          This internship offer is the closest thing I’ve gotten to getting a paid gig in my field in the past 3 months. I am going to start back up waitressing like I did in college, but that sure doesn’t open many doors like a related internship does (albeit one that barely pays).

          1. Snow*

            You never know what your server gig could bring you. I’m a journalist, and worked as a server in college. I got my first internship (unpaid) at one of *the* top news organizations in the nation, thanks to a customer who referred me to right person. Also, that unpaid internship opened up many doors for me and greatly expanded my professional network. I’m a huge advocate for internships, paid or not. I learned more as an intern than I did in any journalism class I took.

    2. Kate*

      I did a three hour one way commute for my first (unpaid) internship. It was worth it to me to get that experience – and I was living at home. Would I do it again? Nope. Did it start my career? I absolutely think so.

    3. Melissa*

      I did a 4-hour round-trip commute for a summer internship at a market research firm. It sucked, but it was worth it. However, that internship was paid; I truly enjoyed it; my co-workers were friendly and awesome and I do believe that company would hire me if I applied once I graduated. And it was only for three months.

  8. Kimmie Sue*

    Am the only one confused by:

    “My school gives them interns, and they almost always hire them. The stipend, $500/month, is for those interns.”

    Is the OP suggesting that there are both stipend-paid and unpaid interns? If so, I’m scratching my head as to why they would be treated differently? Anyone else see concerns with that??? Part of the reason I’ve always hated unpaid internships.

    Here is some great information on unpaid internships (and potential legals risks). My gut is that the OP (as a graduate) would not qualify under FLSA guidelines. Unpaid internships must be part of an “education plan”.

    1. OP*

      No, I wasn’t trying to infer that there were unpaid interns. I was trying to say that they get intern applications, most from my alma mater, and they give preferential treatment (meaning, in CHOOSING, not PAYING) to the ones from my alma mater. There are other interns from other schools, but not as many. And they also get paid (from what I understand).

      They also get school credit.

      And I know about the issues of unpaid interns with labor laws and such, but I for some reason forgot about them as related to this. You are right, if I am putting a significant amount of work (which I will be, as Bob explained: I’d be doing a lot of stuff for each day’s broadcast, not just “observing”), I should get paid, right? Otherwise theres a legality issue, right?

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        The Dept of Labor rule is that the net benefit has to be the unpaid intern, not the company. So the intern has to be getting more out of it than the company does, but the company can still derive benefit from it. Some of their criteria are:

        * The internship is similar to training which would be given in an educational environment.
        * The internship experience is for the benefit of the intern
        * The intern does not displace regular employees but instead works under close supervision of existing staff
        * The employer providing the training derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the intern; and on occasion, its operations may actually be impeded.

        However, in reality, companies violate this law all constantly; unpaid internships are very common, and most people don’t even know about this law.

        There’s also one huge exception to the law — nonprofits, which can have all the unpaid workers they want. I’m not sure, but wouldn’t a public broadcasting station fall under that exception?

        1. ChristineH*

          A-ha! That explains why I got pretty much zero benefit from the two unpaid internships I had last summer: one was with a nonprofit, the other was with a government agency. Oh sure both were very interesting, but I didn’t get any real feedback whatsoever.

  9. Yuu*

    I agree with contacting them right away and say that in the flurry of everything you are worried that you didn’t make it clear, but that your acceptance is contingent upon getting the $500 stipend. Since you have a 2 hour commute, I’d also mention it and recommend asking if it was possible to do 2 days at 7.5hrs each.

    1. OP*

      The longer days aren’t an option, because the internship is for specific programs in the broadcast. They don’t need/want interns there longer because there won’t be anything for them to do for those additional 2.5 hours a day.

      I am also trying to kill two birds with one stone by putting an internship day on a day where I am also downtown for a volunteer position. That way I only pay for the commute once, and can do both. The volunteer position doesn’t pay, but I enjoy it and it’s great experience in my field.

      If I tried to bump it to 7.5 hours two days, it would be nice to get it all done in two days, but I’d still be commuting that one day for my volunteer gig, so I wouldn’t be saving any time/money at all.

  10. Emily*

    I commuted four hours a day to my full-time job for 20 months. There were some factors that made it tolerable: I was saving tons of money by living with my parents; I went home to my dogs, who cannot live with me in the city and who I miss terribly now that I’ve moved back; 90% of the trip was on the same train, so I could really sit back and relax and spend that time however I wanted. The major drawbacks were: of course, I couldn’t spend the time however I wanted because I was still on a train full of people; the train schedule was very limiting, so I had to be up before the sun every morning and keep a very rigid schedule; the commuting “scene” and lifestyle got really, really [really] . . . really depressing.

    As someone who’s done that, my advice is to consider accepting the position only if:
    a) you do get that stipend. Working for free is one thing; paying to work for free is another! And see note above about how depressing a long commute can get. On bad days, I could spend the entire ride wondering, “why am I doing this?” I might cry if I was thinking, “why am I doing this for free?” If it is actually a rule that you aren’t eligible for a stipend because you’ve already graduated, it seems like a rule that’s got a loophole in it somewhere!
    b) The schedule can be shifted to 7.5 hours/day instead of 5 hours/day. I’d tell them you’ll be available whichever two days of the week work best for them.

  11. saro*

    Meh, I’ve done stuff like this and it was great for my career. As queen of the unpaid internships, I recommend you make it happen if it’s experience you can’t get anywhere else!

  12. Anonymous*

    I’ve worked in network and local broadcast production, and I have some advice for you. The industry is absolutely TERRIBLE about exploiting young enthusiastic free labor. I get that you are hoping to make connections and gain experience, but internships tend to be the absolutely least efficient way to do that. If you make it to your mid-30’s in an industry where there’s always a 20 year old willing to do your job for free, you’ll start to understand why this happens. Sure, I know some really great supportive people who love helping young people starting out, but they tend to be the exception in broadcast, not the rule.

    So what do I recommend? The best thing you can do is start making your own work for free and entering it in festivals. Given the choice between an “award-winning cinematographer” and “worked at X, Y & Z as an intern”, most production companies will choose what the award winner. The honors I racked up on the festival round in my 20’s led directly to my first real paid positions. If you aren’t interested in being the director or if you like a related aspect such as sound or special effects, find a local networking group of independent filmmakers (there’s even one where I live now in the boonies). Take some time to get to know people, and then offer to help out with people you respect. These are still both “working for free” scenarios, but you will be getting solid experience in what you want to be doing, not what they let interns work on. It also helps create the impression that you are “paying your dues” in the industry, which is hugely important in an industry where your reputation is more critical than your actual talents. (I’m actually not all that skilled in my given field, but because I have a good rep, I enjoyed steadier work than some people who were more skilled than me.)

    Finally, consider where you want to live. You are living two hours away from a city where there is potential opportunities. I get that your rent is free right now, but the trade-off is that it becomes much harder to get in to the city for networking opportunities. If you have a “day job” in the city and find an affordable living situation for that salary, you will gain 4 hours each day for trying to meet people, working on your own stuff, etc.

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