Should You Take An Unpaid Internship?

Should You Take An Unpaid Internship?

By Khadejah Stegall

Khadejah is a part of the TLC College Ambassador Program and attends North Carolina A&T University.

You read the internship job description and it sounds like the perfect match. Only problem is it’s not paid! One of the many reasons people do not get experience specifically in the field of arts is because they are unwilling to take unpaid internships. I know it seems illogical to do hard work and not get paid for it, but what if I told you unpaid internships could lead you to your dream job? It’s time to humble yourself and really seek after experience instead of compensation to grow your resume. Times are getting harder, but people are getting hired by who they know and through relationships. Let’s look at some reasons you should consider taking an unpaid internship.

Use as a learning experience

Internships are great experience, paid or unpaid. You get a chance to see if you really want to pursue the field of your interest at the time. If you are going to take an unpaid internship, we recommend taking one that is relevant to your career goals. You will either like or dislike your internship. The important lesson is that it was a learning experience to see which next steps you want to take in your career.

Grow your network

If you play your cards right and build valuable relationships, it can help get your foot into the door not only at the internship you are at, but other companies too. A lot of people intern at smaller companies that don’t have it in their budget to pay interns. Although a company is smaller, employees have been in the business for years. If you prove you are a hard worker, your boss can refer you to paid opportunities.

Boost your resume

One of the most important reasons you should consider taking an unpaid internship is to get experience on your resume. Unpaid internships can lead to paid internships. I once took an unpaid internship at a local CW station in the creative services department. The following summer, I accepted a paid internship with BET Networks in the creative services department because my managers loved how I had experience in the field. 

Take advantage while you can

You are probably at a period in your life where you can afford to take unpaid internships because you don’t have a lot of responsibility. Now is your time to do so. Don’t wait until you graduate to take an unpaid internship out of desperation when you have a ton of student loans and other responsibilities.

Follow in the footsteps of successful people

If some of the most successful people in the world had unpaid internships, why can’t you? Valeisha Butterfield Jones took an unpaid internship to pursue a career in entertainment. She landed an unpaid internship with music mogul Russell Simmons and slept on her friend’s couch in New York for eleven months. Today, she serves as the Head of Black Community Engagement for Google and is also the current co-founder and CEO of the Women in Entertainment Empowerment Network,

Some companies just don’t have it in their budget to pay you. Use wisdom and take an unpaid internship where you are provided housing if necessary. If you land an opportunity in another state, pick up a part-time job that will pay the bills or stay with family or friends for free. You will be paid in the valuable experience you get, especially if you establish advocates. Do what financially makes sense, but remember it is temporary and won’t last forever.


Khadejah Stegall is a college mommy blogger that inspires others to achieve the impossible through the power of Jesus. She enjoys family time, eating vegan meals when it's convenient and mentoring others on professional development. To be inspired by more post, follow her blog at khadejahstegall.com.