I have definitely lost count of how many times I’ve worked for free in the form of an internship, but I can honestly say that each time was a very valuable experience for me.
I started interning at museums in college. I majored in history, and at the time, I wanted to work in a museum either as a curator, historian, or educator.
I had some really great experiences during that time in my life with some seriously geek-tastic moments, like seeing the first skeleton that they uncovered at historic Jamestown in Virginia and seeing parts of the U.S.S. Monitor ironclad ship just after they pulled it out the ocean.
I worked with amazing people and got to be a part of projects that contributed positively to the world. Plus, all of these internships (combined with some good grades) helped me get into graduate school with a full tuition scholarship.
Once I got that acceptance letter with the scholarship offer attached, I knew that working for free all those years was definitely worth it.
Unpaid Internships After College
When most people think of unpaid internships, college comes to mind, since that’s the time when we are developing what we want to do with our lives.
However, unpaid internships are awesome experiences no matter how old you are! For example, just year ago, when my blog was still on blogger with a header I designed in paint shop, I interned with a new online branding company.
They taught me how to use WordPress, navigate the site, and edit blog posts. Then, they launched an even bigger internship project asking other bloggers to contribute. At that time, I became the editor for the site, checking contributor posts for grammar, formatting them, and keeping everything on schedule. It taught me a lot about what website owners expect from their staff writers, lessons I still use to this day in my own business.
Also, the knowledge that I gained about WordPress was golden. When I decided to start pursuing staff writing for other blogs as a serious side venture, I was able to say that I was proficient with WordPress because of that internship. Then, I moved my entire blog over to WordPress without having that awkward getting-to-know-you phase.
Hidden Benefits of Unpaid Internships
As evidenced, there are tons of hidden benefits to working for free, so think outside the box. If you’ve always wanted to learn how to reupholster furniture, landscape, or run an online business, send a nice professional e-mail to a company you admire and offer to work for free!
It’s a win/win situation because the company gets a helping hand, and you get to soak up the knowledge.
Remember, whether you’re 25 or 65, you can do an unpaid internship to learn a new skill. You might be surprised to find out where it takes you. I know I was!
Have you ever worked for free? Was it a valuable experience?